GP patients still hanging on the telephone

PEOPLE are still having trouble reaching surgeries on the phone, according to the latest NHS GP Patient Survey.

At least three quarters of patients at all three practices in the Downend and Emersons Green area said it was “not easy” to get through on the phone.

Problems are getting worse at Downend Health Group, which runs the Willow Surgery and Christchurch Family Medical Centre, with 94% of patients reporting problems – up from 80% last year. Five years ago more than half of patients (56%) told the survey it was easy to get through.

The 85% of patients at Leap Valley Medical Centre reporting problems was down on last year’s figure of 89%, while Emersons Green Medical Centre’s 77% was down from 98% last year.

Leap Valley, in Beaufort Road, and Emersons Green, in St Luke’s Close, are run by Green Valleys Health, which installed a new phone system in 2020 following years of complaints. However, back in 2018, 69% of Leap Valley patients and 52% in Emersons Green said it was easy to get through.

Nationally, 50% of patients said they found it easy to get through.

The percentage of people offered a same-day appointment at Downend Health Group surgeries was 34% – down 1% on last year. The number of people waiting a week or more was 25%, down from 26% last year. Others waited more than a day but less than a week, or could not remember how long they waited.

At Leap Valley Medical Centre, only 16% of patients were offered a same-day appointment – down from 21% last year. And numbers having to wait a week or more rose from 37% in 2022 to 45%.

The percentage of patients offered same-day appointments at Emersons Green Medical Centre was 17% – down from 23% last year. The proportion of patients waiting a week or longer fell from 44% in 2022 to 39%.

Nationally, 52% of patients were offered same-day appointments if they wanted one.

Overall patient satisfaction levels for all three practices remain below where they were five years ago.

The percentage of patients saying they had a good overall experience of Downend Health Group fell from 61% in 2022 to 58% this year, with the number saying it was poor up from 17% to 28%.

Five years ago 81% said they had a good experience.

Some patients gave a neutral answer to the question.

Good ratings for Leap Valley rose from 38% to 46% this year, with ‘poor’ ratings down from 46% to 27%. The surgery had a 73% ‘good’ or ‘very good’ rating in 2018.

At Emersons Green Medical Centre the percentage of patients who said their experience was good rose from 37% to 48%, while those saying it was poor fell from 47% to 35%. Five years ago 65% were happy with the surgery. Nationally, 71% of people said they were happy with their surgery, down from 72% last year.

The survey was carried out by Ipsos MORI with NHS England, based on just under 760,000 responses to questionnaires sent out nationwide between January and April.

A spokesperson for Bristol, North Somerset and South Gloucestershire Integrated Care Board, which funds GP services, said: “We welcome this valuable feedback on local GP services, and are pleased to see that results across our area are above the national average in many areas of the survey, including people’s overall experience of an appointment and overall experience of making an appointment, the performance of healthcare professionals and their ability to recognise mental health needs.

“We also recognise there are areas for improvement. We are continuing to share learning between practices about what works well, and are working to support practices to deliver high-quality services to patients.

“General practice is continuing to develop. Practices are working hard to make sure everyone can access the right support when they need it; whether that’s online or face-to-face.