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Just two thirds of patients have positive experience with GPs, survey suggests

The health and care experience survey has been conducted since 2009-10 (Anthony Devlin/PA)
The health and care experience survey has been conducted since 2009-10 (Anthony Devlin/PA)

Just two thirds of Scots had a positive experience at their GP practice last year, a new survey shows.

The Health and Care Experience Survey received more than 130,000 responses, aimed at gauging how people experience the health service in Scotland.

When asked about their overall experience of their GP, 67% of respondents gave a positive rating, a drop of 12% from the previous survey and 23% from the first survey undertaken in 2009-10.

The exact same response was received by people who attended out of hours NHS services – a 12% drop in positive experience to 67%.

GP services were further disrupted last year because of the ongoing pandemic, forcing more patients to be seen by phone or virtually to avoid the spread of the virus.

The survey suggests a 49% drop to 37% of patients being seen by GPs face to face, compared to 57% who were seen by phone appointment, an increase of 46%.

A spokeswoman for the Scottish Government said: Although the majority of people who responded to the Health and Care survey reported an overall positive experience accessing primary care, we know that more can always be done to improve services.

“It’s important to note that this survey was conducted during the heights of the Covid-19 pandemic, which had a huge impact on how GPs and primary care could support their patients.

“As we move forward, we’re working to expand the services available in primary care, not least through the use of more multi-disciplinary teams to support patients being seen by the right person at the right time.”

Dr Sandesh Gulhane, the Scottish Tory health spokesman and himself a GP, said the figures were “concerning”, adding: “let’s be clear, the blame for them lies squarely with the SNP Government, rather than our overstretched GPs.

“As a GP myself, I’m acutely aware of the chronic shortfall in numbers across Scotland but especially in rural and remote areas.

“This is a direct result of the SNP’s appalling NHS workforce planning, including the decision by Nicola Sturgeon, as Health Secretary, to reduce the number of funded places for homegrown medical students at Scottish universities. That has led to insufficient graduates coming through to fill GP vacancies.

“Inevitably, that has made it harder for patients to get appointments – and forced them to travel further afield to access services – so it’s little wonder satisfaction rates are declining.

“This is a problem that predates the pandemic, so Humza Yousaf can’t use that as an excuse.”

Scottish Labour deputy leader, Jackie Baillie, said: “This damning survey lays bare the toll that SNP mismanagement is having on Scotland’s NHS and social care.

“The survey is full of praise for hardworking staff, who are clearly working tirelessly to try and fix problems they did not create – but there is only so much they can do.

“GP practices are doing their best but they are at breaking point and patients are paying the price, with the pandemic pushing us to a new low after years of decline under the SNP.”

Andrew Buist, the chair of the British Medial Association’s Scottish GP committee, said: “Despite a longstanding chronic shortage of GP workforce, and the massive challenges GPs have faced throughout the pandemic, and continue to face in terms of keeping up with demand, surgeries are doing everything they can to provide the best possible care for patients.

“That is the context of how we must view these figures and keep in mind that without the truly remarkable efforts of GPs and their teams, the figures would be nowhere near even as positive as this.

“Many GPs and their practice staff are carrying the scars of the last two years: people are tired, recovery and catch-up will take a considerable time for general practice and the rest of the NHS.

“There is a significant backlog of chronic disease management, the considerable mental health fall-out from the pandemic, and the unknown implications of long-Covid among many other issues.

“And all this is having a real impact on GPs – who, to be frank, are struggling to cope in many places – risking pushing more out of the profession.”

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