Patients give broadly positive impressions of their experience of primary care services, including care given by doctors and dentists, according to a major survey by the Healthcare Commission. Most patients have confidence and trust in the person caring for them. The vast majority report that they are always treated with dignity and respect.
The survey of almost 117,000 people sought patients' views of services provided by general practices, local health centres and dental surgeries. It is the biggest single test of the opinion of patients about primary care. It comes as the Government engages in a major consultation of the public about care outside hospitals.
With regard to the quality of care that patients receive from GPs, the survey found:
- 76% reported definitely having confidence and trust in the doctor whom they saw
- 92% of people said the doctor whom they saw always treated them with dignity and respect
- of those prescribed new medication in the past year, 59% said that they were definitely involved as much as they wanted to be in decisions about their medication, and 80% said that they were given enough information about the purpose of their medication. But, 18% reported not being given any information about potential side-effects
- 69% of people said that they were involved as much as they wanted to be in decisions about their care and treatment. However, when it came to referrals to specialists, 70% of patients said that they did not receive copies of any correspondence between their GP and the hospital that they were referred to.
The survey also shows some improvement in access to GPs' services, but it does highlight some areas of concern:
- 12% of patients said that they were unable to see a GP within two working days
- a further 13% who did not obtain an appointment in that time reported that they chose to wait longer in order to see the GP of their choice, or to get an appointment that was more convenient for them
- 30% said that they could not book an appointment three or more working days in advance
- 41% said that they thought that they should have been seen sooner than they were, a reduction from 43% in 2004.
With regards to dental care, many patients reported difficulties in gaining access to an NHS dentist. Fifty-seven percent of those surveyed were registered with an NHS dentist. Sixty-nine percent of those not registered with an NHS dentist said they would like to be. Of those treated by an NHS dentist, 75% said they definitely had confidence in their dentist and 70% said they were definitely involved in their care.
Anna Walker, Chief Executive of the Healthcare Commission, said:
"This major survey of patients gives us an invaluable insight into what patients think about their access to primary healthcare and the quality of care that they receive. We recommend that patients' views should, in the future, be taken account of along with those of GPs and other primary healthcare professionals by all organisations assessing performance. By looking at all perspectives, we will have a much more balanced and robust measure that makes sense to both patients and doctors.
She added, "Although timely access to GPs and dentists is important, the quality of care that patients receive from their GP, dentist or midwife is also crucial and according to patients, it is extremely good."
Source: Healthcare Commission Website