• GP survey shows continued steady reduction in people finding it easy to access
  • Criticism over small proportion reporting they have written care plans

The proportion of patients finding it easy to get through to their GP surgery on the phone has fallen slightly for a fourth successive year, new GP Patient Survey results show.

The national survey data, published by NHS England last week, showed that since summer 2012 the proportion of patients saying it was easy to get through to their GP surgery by phone fell by 7.9 percentage points, from 78 per cent to 70.1 per cent.

The figure was 70.6 per cent in July 2015’s results, and 70.1 per cent in the results published last week.

The proportion saying it was “not at all easy” to get through on the phone has increased from 5.2 per cent in summer 2012, to 8.6 per cent in this summer’s results.

The figures come amid huge concern about GP workload and capacity, and an ongoing government push to improve access, with a particular focus on the weekend.

The survey found the proportion of people saying they were able to get an appointment had fallen by 2.9 percentage points since 2012; while satisfaction with surgery opening hours has declined by five percentage points.

Meanwhile, a senior patient representative criticised the “startlingly” low proportion of patients reporting they have a written care plans, which has remained virtually unchanged since 2012 despite national policy backing for better personal care.

The latest GP Patient Survey was carried out between 2 July 2015 and 1 April 2016, with responses form 836,312 patients.

Despite the promotion of personalised care in national policy in recent years, there has been virtually no change to the very small proportion of patients reporting that they have written care plans. It has increased by 0.1 percentage point since the December 2013 survey, and now stands at 3.2 per cent

Of those who said they do have a care plan, almost 30 per cent said they did not help put it together.

Jeremy Taylor, chief executive of National Voices, told HSJ that the figure exposed a “gap in the rhetoric around patient centred care and the reality”.

“This [figure] has remained stubbornly low. The Labour government promised that all with long term conditions who wanted one would have a care plan by 2010.

“Progress has stalled, largely because a joined up strategic approach to supporting people with long term conditions has simply not been a priority and there has been no stable and consistent policy leadership of the agenda.”

He added: “Personalised care and support planning, along with supported self-management, remain experimental – they are gaining some ground in vanguard land, integrated care pioneer land and integrated personalised commissioning land.”

Meanwhile, HSJ understands that results of the GP Patient Survey, previously published twice a year by NHS England, will now only be published on an annual basis, to reduce costs.