Devon has been ranked as second best in the country for patient experience of general practice, according to the 2022 England-wide GP Patient Survey.
The results have shown overwhelming public backing for Devon’s GP surgeries, with eight in ten respondents reporting a good experience of their practice.
The GP Patient Survey, administered by Ipsos on behalf of NHS England, found that GP practices in Devon have exceeded the national average across a range of categories.
The news has been welcomed by senior doctors and Healthwatch in the county, who have praised practice teams for continuing to maintain high standards of service throughout the pandemic, despite a staggering rise in demand for services and ongoing staffing and recruitment challenges.
The results of the national annual Ipsos GP Patient Survey, which saw 14,548 people across Devon sharing their views on a range of topics including making an appointment, overall experience, and local GP services, were published this month.
For patients who had struggled to get an appointment, most reported that their practice helped them in another way, with fewer patients reporting attending ED instead than the national average.
Dr Frank O’Kelly, a GP in Tiverton and partner member for primary care for NHS Devon, said: “It’s great that we can demonstrate that we have still been able to offer an extraordinary service in general practice that is well-received by our patients and supported by first-hand experiences.
“We know there will be times when some people have to wait longer than they or we would have liked, but the survey outcomes show the excellent service that local GP practices are delivering, and that the vast majority of patients are able to access services in a timely way.”
Dr Sarah Wollaston, Chair of NHS Devon, said “As a former GP in Devon, I am delighted to see that practices have yet again consistently performed better than the England average. This is fantastic recognition for the county’s GP practices and I am extremely proud of the level of service they offer to people in Devon. It’s rewarding to see both from our perspective, as well as for our patients.
“I know general practice teams across Devon have worked extremely hard over the last year and I know how dedicated they are to their patients, but with the challenges and increased demand they have faced over the last year that has been out of their control, the results could have been very different. We acknowledge that some patients experience challenges, but it is still great to see that over 8 out of 10 patients have a good experience.”
Jane Milligan, Chief Executive for NHS Devon, said: “The national GP Patient Survey is a crucial tool for us when it comes to understanding people’s experience of general practice. It allows us to work with local practices and identify actions that need to take place.
“The survey highlights that there is still more to do to meet the needs of our patients. We will continue to work with our partners, the public and GPs to improve experience and access across Devon as we develop a strategy for general practice in Devon for the next 10 years.
“We have provided additional funding to practices to deliver more face-to-face appointments. Our local GP practices are working with us to develop a solution to better understand and manage demand and capacity.
“We are increasing the range of roles in general practice teams to support GPs, extend access to appointments for evenings and Saturdays, and upgrade GP telephone systems, while making better use of digital alternatives and supporting patients to use these.”
The achievement in the GP Patient Survey closely follows the findings of a different national study that showed GP practices in Exeter have been rated the highest in the country on Google and have the highest proportion of practices with an ‘outstanding’ rating from the Care Quality Commission.
Responding to the GP Patient Survey, Pat Harris, Strategic Lead for Healthwatch in Devon, Plymouth and Torbay, said: “These excellent survey results are commendable. It is a testament to the hard work of our GP Practices in Devon that there are so many categories where the score is higher than the national average, particularly during an incredibly challenging year for all health and care services. We congratulate all the highly rated practices across Devon, Plymouth and Torbay and thank them for their hard work keeping patients safe.
“While these results are very encouraging, we have received patient feedback regarding some areas relating to access that are not as positive, and we are working closely with NHS Devon to ensure learning is made from this feedback.
“As health and social care services continue to recover from the pandemic, there will be pressure on all providers to meet the demand for local people accessing their services. Public feedback such as this survey will be very important moving forward so that providers and commissioners of services can capture what is working well and what may need to be improved. We therefore hope GP patients continue to share their feedback, whether directly with the practice or independently through your local Healthwatch.”
Nationally, patient satisfaction levels dropped further this year, with the proportion of patients reporting a good overall experience of their GP practice falling by more than 10 per cent, which demonstrates the challenges that general practice has been facing across the country.