5. The GP Practice
- Eighty three per cent of people rated the overall care provided by their GP practice positively, this was down two percentage points from the last survey.
- Eighty seven per cent of people found it easy to contact their GP practice in the way that they want to and around three quarters were happy with their GP practice opening hours.
- Sixty seven per cent of people rated the arrangements for getting to see a doctor positively and 70 per cent of people rated the arrangements for getting to see another medical professional positively.
- Ninety three per cent of people were able to obtain two working day access to their GP practice; this is a slight increase from the previous survey. Around two thirds of people were allowed to book an appointment at their GP practice three or more working days in advance – a significant decrease from the previous survey.
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.
A review of patient access to GP services across the country in partnership with the British Medical Association (BMA) was included in the GP contract agreement for 2014-15, in order to support practices and NHS Boards to both better understand the challenges and to make any necessary improvements to access. This focus has been maintained in the new GP General Medical Services (GMS) contract  (from April 2018), which is underpinned by the principle of ensuring patients can see the right person at the right place at the right time.
Contacting the GP Practice
The survey asked respondents when they had last contacted the GP practice named on the survey letter. Those who had not attended the GP practice named in the last 12 months or attend a different GP practice were asked to skip questions on the GP practice and move on to the next section.
Almost nine in ten people had contacted the named GP practice in the last 12 months (88 per cent) which is a similar to proportion to previous surveys. As shown in Figure 5.1, most people who had contacted their GP practice in the last 12 months had last contacted it within the last three months.
Figure 5.1: Last time contacted named GP practice
For those who had contacted their GP practice in the last 12 months, Figure 5.2 shows the distribution of number of contacts people had over the last 12 months. A third of people (33 per cent) had contacted their GP practice five or more times. This shows a decrease from previous years where around two fifths of people (41, 42 and 39 per cent in 2015/16, 2013/14 and 2011/12 respectively) had contacted their GP practice five or more times.
Figure 5.2: Number of contacts in the last 12 months
The majority of people (87 per cent) found it easy to contact their GP practice in the way that they want, with half of people finding it very easy. In previous surveys, respondents were asked how easy they found it to get through to their GP practice on the phone specifically and this was also rated very positively, with 82 per cent of people saying they found it easy in both 2015/16 and 2013/14.
Respondents were asked what they thought of the opening hours of their GP practice:
- Seventy six per cent of people were happy with them;
- Seventeen per cent of people were not happy with the opening hours – for most of these people this was because it was too difficult to get time away from work during the practice's opening hours (14 per cent compared to 3 per cent who did not like the opening hours for another reason); and
- Six per cent of people were not sure what the opening hours of their GP practice were.
This is consistent with responses to this question in previous years, as shown in Figure 5.3.
Figure 5.3: GP practice opening hours
Practice receptionists have an important role in helping people to access the most appropriate source of help, advice or information for them; this may include information about services available from different members of the team within the practice or about services available in the community.
A new question was included in the 2017/18 survey asking respondents how they would rate the quality of the information provided by the receptionist at their GP practice. Just over three quarters of people (77 per cent) rated the quality of information positively ('Excellent' or 'Good'); 17 per cent rated it as 'Fair' and six per cent rated it negatively ('Poor' or 'Very poor').
Access to Appointments
GP practices are expected to provide reasonable and appropriate access for their patients as part of their services. To monitor this, each NHS board in Scotland is required to meet an Local Delivery Plan (LDP) Standard  on the percentage of individuals able to:
- obtain access to a doctor or nurse within two working days; and
- book an appointment in advance.
Respondents were asked how long they had to wait the last time they needed to see or speak to a doctor or a nurse from their GP practice quite urgently. Of those who had needed to see or speak to a doctor / nurse and were able to remember, 87 per cent were able to do so within two working days. This is higher than in previous years (84 per cent in both 2015/16 and 2013/14).
Figure 5.4: Length of wait to see a doctor or nurse at the GP practice urgently
Of those who were unable to see or speak to a doctor / nurse within two working days, almost three fifths (59 per cent) were not offered a chance to. Just over a quarter of people (26 per cent) waited longer than two working days because the person they wanted to see was not available and eight per cent of people waited because the times available were not convenient for them. The remaining eight per cent waited for another reason.
For the LDP Standard, individuals are considered to have been able to obtain two working day access if they were offered an appointment within two working days, even if they then turned the appointment down. Considering the results in this way, 93 per cent of people who needed to see or speak to a doctor or nurse quite urgently were able to do so or were offered an appointment within two working days. This is above the LDP Standard of 90 per cent and is a slight increase from the last survey (91 per cent).
The survey also asked respondents if their GP practice allowed them to make an appointment with a doctor three or more working days in advance. A quarter of people (25 per cent) did not know – this is consistent with previous surveys (26 and 25 per cent in 2015/16 and 2013/14 respectively).
Of those who did know, 68 per cent of people said that they were allowed to book an appointment three or more working days in advance. This is a significant decrease from previous surveys where over three quarters of people were allowed to book an appointment three or more working days in advance (77 per cent in both 2015/16 and 2013/14). This continues to be significantly below the LDP Standard.
Overall Arrangements to See Someone
Respondents were asked to rate the arrangements for getting to see a doctor in their GP practice. Around two thirds of people (67 per cent) rated the arrangements positively, this is a decrease from the previous surveys as shown in Figure 5.5.
Figure 5.5: Overall ratings for arrangements to see a doctor
The survey then asked respondents to rate the arrangements for getting to see another medical professional in their GP practice – seven in ten people (70 per cent) rated these arrangements positively. In previous surveys this question specifically asked about the arrangements for getting to see a nurse. This question had a higher positive rating (81 and 80 per cent in 2015/16 and 2013/14 respectively) which may indicate that people find the arrangements for getting to see medical professionals excluding nurses less positive than they do for nurses.
Overall Experience of Care
When asked to rate the care provided by their GP practice overall, 83 per cent of people rated it positively. This shows a decrease of two percentage points compared to the previous survey and a decrease of seven percentage points compared to the first Health & Care Experience Survey in 2009/10, as shown in Figure 5.6.
Figure 5.6: Overall rating of care provided by the GP practice