19 September 2016
Nora Cooke O'Dowd

Nora Cooke O'Dowd

Research Analyst
QualityWatch

This month we look at the GP Patient Survey data, exploring patients’ overall experience including making appointments and waiting times. We also comment on the statistics around how people with long terms conditions (LTCs) feel supported to manage their conditions and the disparity in employment rates between people with a LTC, mental illness, or learning disability and the general population.

We invited Maureen Baker of the Royal College of General Practitioners to comment on the indicator updates relating to GP practice. Her blog is available here

Access to GP services – making an appointment

The majority of respondents to the GP patient survey have said they found it easy to get through to someone at their GP surgery on the phone, although ease of access has declined from a peak of 78% in 2011/12 to 70% in 2015/16, meaning that over a quarter of patients still find it difficult to get through on the phone. Similarly, one quarter of respondents felt that the opening hours of their GP surgery were not convenient for them.

After contacting the surgery, around half of patients said that they saw someone on the same or next working day (49% in 2013/14 and 48% in 2015/16). In both years a sizeable number of patients also said that it took them more than a week to see someone (16% in 2013/14 and 19% in 2015/16). Nevertheless, since 2012/13, 92% of patients have found their appointment convenient. Overall, the majority of patients describe their experience of making an appointment as positive, but this is showing a downward trend over the time period that the question has been surveyed (79% in 2011/12 to 73% in 2015/16).

Visits to GP surgeries – waiting and duration

Once at the GP surgery for an appointment, one quarter of patients had to wait 15 minutes or longer to see the GP or nurse after their appointment time (2015/16). One third of patients felt they had to wait a bit or far too long to be seen. In 2015/16, 85% of respondents felt their GP was good or very good at giving them enough time during their consultation; this was 79% for nurses.

Patient experience of GP services

85% of respondents to the GP Patient survey said their overall experience of their GP surgery was either very or fairly good in 2015/16. This is a reversal of the downward trend in satisfaction seen since 2010/11. A total of 78% of respondents said in 2015/16 they would recommend their GP surgery to someone who had just moved to the local area. A smaller proportion (69%) of respondents said their experience of out-of-hours GP services was fairly or very good.

Supporting patients to manage long-term conditions

An increasing number of people are living with long-term conditions (LTCs). Primary care plays an important role in helping patients to manage their long-term conditions. Consistently, over 50% of surveyed GP patients felt they received enough support from local services or organisations (not just health services) to help them manage their LTC. It is worth noting, however, that there were still more than 1 in 10 patients (12.4% in 2015/16) stating that they didn't feel they had enough support to manage LTCs in the last six months.

There is a strong correlation between feeling positive about the support received and patient deprivation. In 2015/16, a smaller proportion of people (60.8%) from the most deprived areas reported that they felt supported to manage their LTC than people in the least deprived areas (68.2%).

There is also variation across age groups. Fewer younger patients felt supported to manage their LTCs in both 2014/15 and 2015/16: 55.2% in the 18-24 and the 25-34 age groups, compared with roughly 76% in the 65-74 and 75-84 year old age groups.

Employment of people with long-term conditions

It is estimated that around one quarter of working age adults have one or more LTC, and the employment rate for this group is around 60% - typically 11-15 percentage points lower than that of the general population. Though employment rates have changed over time, the gap between the two groups has not narrowed.

Fewer people with a mental illness are in employment, but the rate of people with a mental illness who are in employment has markedly increased in recent years from 26.6% in Q4 2006/07 to 40.1% in Q4 2015/16. Rates of employment have also increased in the general population, but not as quickly, thus reducing the disparity between the two. In Q4 2006/07 there was a 44.8 percentage point difference in employment rates between people with and without a mental illness and this had fallen to 34.2 percentage points by Q4 2015/16. This is a big improvement, but still a huge employment gap.

The proportion of adults with a learning disability in paid employment is lower still and has been decreasing: from 7.1% in 2010-11 to 6.0% in 2014-15. A higher proportion of men with a learning disability are employed than women, although the size of the gap is decreasing: in 2014/15, 5.3% of women with a learning disability were in employment compared to 6.4% of men.

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