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2022 GP Patient Survey Launches as NHSE Focuses on Patient Communications

The 2022 GP Patient Survey was launched this year on January 10th. Its findings are expected to be published over the coming summer and will be fed into a number of existing national reporting frameworks, including the NHS Oversight Framework, the NHS Outcomes Framework, and the Clinical Commissioning Group Outcomes Indicator Set.

The results of last year’s GP Patient Survey showed that 83% of patients questioned had reported a good overall experience of their GP practice (up from 82% the year previously). Importantly, the scores recorded for levels of confidence in health care professionals remained very high, with 96% of patients saying they have confidence and trust in the healthcare professional they saw (95% in 2020), and 94% saying their needs were met at their last appointment (94% in 2020).

Patient Awareness

This latest survey comes as the NHS makes a renewed effort to ensure patients know that GP surgeries are open and seeing patients and that there is a range of ways that this can be done. At the end of 2021, the General Practice Communications Toolkit was updated.

This incorporated a number of campaigns, including the “Help Us Help You” initiative, as a response to patients who are reluctant to be seen or to visit in person, especially for non-urgent health concerns. Patients are also directed to 111 for out-of-hours care or for advice on the best way to see a health professional. Other campaigns include Inclusive Access Routes to General Practice; Primary Care Staff Respect materials; General Practice Access assets; General Practice Multidisciplinary Team, and Accessing NHS Services – Mental Health.

The toolkit makes a number of other recommendations aimed at stabilising and improving patient experience. There is an emphasis on not only ‘transmit’ messaging, but also on ‘receive’, where staff listen to their local population and adapt. Key guidance includes:

  • Patients should also have the option of coming to the practice in person while adhering to social distancing and IPC guidance.
  • Patients should be treated consistently regardless of the mode of access
  • Practices should continue to engage with their practice population regarding access models and should actively adapt their processes as appropriate in response to feedback

Despite these efforts, there is understandable concern amongst GP surgery staff that the winter period we are in now is the worst yet, and that the results of the survey will reflect that. Certainly, the pressures that staff have faced and are facing, not just due to winter but also through Covid pressures, are being acutely felt and show no sign of abating. However, last winter was also very tough for surgeries – although locum use is stable overall, the most significant increase in locum bookings was seen between Nov 2020 and April 2021. According to Pulse, this was the highest level since 2016.

The new communications toolkit makes some very important recommendations but whether its impact will be felt in time to make a substantive difference to this year’s Patient Survey results remains to be seen.

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