Access to GP services

Good access to general practice is an important element of the quality of care. The GP Patient Survey gives patients the opportunity to comment on their experience of their GP practice and other local NHS services, including access to services.

What proportion of patients were able to get an appointment to see or speak to a GP or nurse the last time they tried?

All GP Patient Survey respondents are asked whether they were able to get an appointment to see or speak to a GP or nurse from their GP surgery the last time they tried. The majority of respondents answered 'yes', however this proportion decreased from 78% in 2012 to 75% in 2017. The proportion of respondents who said 'no' increased from 9% to 12% over the same time period, and those that had to call back closer to or on the day they wanted the appointment stayed constant at 13%. Note that people who responded 'can't remember' have been excluded for comparison purposes.

Updated June 2018.

How long after contacting the surgery did patients actually see or speak to a GP or nurse?

Survey respondents who said that they were able to get an appointment to see or speak to a GP or nurse the last time they tried are asked, "How long after initially contacting the surgery did you actually see or speak to them?". Between 2012 and 2017, the proportion of respondents who answered 'a week or more later' increased significantly from 13% to 21%, indicating that access to GP surgeries has worsened. In 2012, 38% of respondents stated that they saw or spoke to a GP or nurse 'on the same day' as initially contacting the surgery, and this increased slightly to 40% in 2017. The proportion who saw or spoke to a GP or nurse 'on the next working day' decreased from 15% to 10% over the same time period. People who responded 'can't remember' have been excluded.

Updated June 2018.

If patients have a particular GP they prefer to see at their surgery, how often do they see or speak to them?

Enabling patients to see or speak to the GP they prefer is important for continuity of care, and evidence suggests that it can lead to more satisfied patients and clinicians, reduce costs and lead to better health outcomes. GP Patient Survey respondents who have a doctor they prefer to see at their surgery are asked, "How often do you see or speak to the GP you prefer?". 

Between 2012 and 2017, the proportion of respondents who 'almost or almost always' saw or spoke to the GP they prefer decreased from 42% to 33%. The proportion who 'never or almost never' saw or spoke to the GP they prefer increased from 6% to 9% over the same time period. This indicates that continuity of care in general practice may have got worse. Note that those who responded 'not tried at this GP surgery' have been excluded for comparison purposes.

Updated June 2018.

About this data

Between 2011 and 2016 the GP Patient Survey took place twice a year, having previously been conducted on a quarterly basis (April 2009 - March 2011) and annually (January 2007 - March 2009). In 2017 the survey returned to an annual format.

The data was weighted to adjust for differences between all patients at a surgery and the subset of patients who actually completed the questionnaire.

For more information, please see the GP Patient Survey - Technical Annex. .

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