Healthcare :: Vast majority of patients satisfied with their GP’s opening hours

Proof that GP practices are open at times to suit the vast majority of patients (84%) comes with publication of results from the English Department of Health?s GP Patient Survey.

Dr Laurence Buckman, chairman of the BMA’s General Practitioners Committee (GPC) said:

?These findings, that 84 in every 100 patients are satisfied with the current opening hours in their practice and 86 in every 100 patients could get a quick appointment with their GP, may be news to politicians but echo all the existing up-to-date research already done with patients. You have to ask: was it really a good use of scarce NHS money to spend upwards of ?11 million to prove it yet again? Obviously we would want the satisfaction figures to be even higher. Family doctors want to meet the needs of their patients and with their teams work hard to do so.?

Earlier this year, the BMA?s GPs committee criticised the government?s introduction of a biased additional question into the GP Patient Survey. The extra question suggested reasons why patients might be dissatisfied with opening hours such as not being open at weekends or weekday evenings, neither times being resourced under the national GP contract.

Dr Buckman said: ?It seems only four out of every hundred patients (4.16%) want practices to open on a weekday evening, and seven out of every hundred (7.36%) on weekends. It comes down to a workforce issue. It has always been possible for Primary Care organisations to offer the extra resources needed to extend general practice into longer hours to pay for the nurses, receptionists, doctors, and diagnostic facilities needed to open the surgery. Very few Primary Care Organisations have chosen to spend their limited patient resources in this way.

?The danger is that switching normal opening hours away from the daytime to evenings and weekends might please some patients who are out at work all day, but would take appointments away from those who use their local surgery most ? patients with long-term conditions and parents with young children. All patients are important but we must not penalise the most needy among them.?

In a separate patient survey on choice, 94 out of every 100 people said that when they needed a referral their GP had talked about a choice of hospital with them.

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