Fewer Scots positive about GP care, survey finds

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Fewer Scots are happy with the care they get from their family doctor, a major new survey suggests.

More than 130,000 people were questioned as part of the Health and Care Experience Survey – with just over four fifths (83%) of those who took part rating their GP practice “positively”.

That is down from 85% two years ago, and compares to a satisfaction level of 90% in 2009-10 – the first year the research was carried out.

One in 20 (5%) of those surveyed ranked the care provided by their GP practice as “poor” or “very poor” – up from 2% eight years ago.

The 2017-18 survey also found 87% of people found it easy to contact their GP practice, while more than nine out 10 (93%) were able to get an appointment within two days.

Over two thirds of people (67%) rated the arrangements for getting to see a doctor positively, down from 70% in 2015-16 and 81% in 2009-10.

Fewer people reported being able to book appointments three working days or more in advance – with the proportion of patients able to do this falling from 77% in 2015-16 to 68% in 2017-18.

This is “significantly below” the 90% standard set by the Scottish Government and NHS boards as part of local delivery plans.

The report said: “Often an individual’s first and only contact with the NHS is through their GP practice.

“It is vital therefore that every member of the public has ready and appropriate access to their local primary medical services to ensure better outcomes and experiences for patients.”

Conservative health spokesman Miles Briggs said the research showed the Scottish Government needed to increase funding for family doctors.

The MSP said: “This survey reveals just how crucial a role GPs play in the whole health service. Without them, the entire system would collapse.

“The SNP government should use this positive survey as a jolt to the system.

“It needs to increase the proportion of health funding they get, and make sure they’re equipped for the future challenges we’ve all been warned about.”

Liberal Democrat health spokesman Alex Cole-Hamilton warned that patients were feeling the impact of a GP “crisis”.

He said: “We know a quarter of practices have vacancies, up from just 9% five years ago. GPs are working up to 90 hours in a typical week and under the SNP the number of GPs taking early retirement has trebled.

“That is why we urgently need to see the primary care workforce plan that is months late, despite doctors repeatedly warning that they are busier than ever.

“We also need to see a mental health practitioner in every local surgery, taking some of the pressure off GPs and ending the scandal of year-long waits for treatment.”

Health Secretary Shona Robison said: “In the last year there has been a welcome rise in the number of people offered an urgent appointment at their GP practice within 48 hours, from 91% to 93%, with all health boards meeting the minimum standard of 90%.

“The overall rating of care remains high and the new GP contract, backed by investment of £110 million this year, will ensure GPs can spend even more time with patients when they really need to see them.

“There will also be new investment in the wider multi-disciplinary teams to support GPs and improve patient care.”

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