This report presents findings from a survey run by the Scottish Government and The Scottish Centre for Social Research to understand public perceptions of primary care in Scotland. The survey covered three research themes: awareness and understanding of different ways of accessing primary care; trust and confidence in different professionals; and barriers to accessing and receiving care. A nationally representative sample of 1,136 people aged 18 and over living in Scotland took part in the survey. The survey ran between 4th Feb – 7th March 2022 and was primarily self-completed online with a telephone option offered.
Key findings are presented under the three research themes:
What & Where: finding health and service information
- The majority of people surveyed (92%) have accessed at least one primary care service in the last 12 months.
- Friends and family and the internet were cited as common sources of initial health information, with around 7 in 10 respondents reporting they would use these resources to find out about a new, non-threatening health condition.
- Respondents reported high confidence in finding information about NHS services. Between 78-90% of respondents reported they knew or could easily find information about different services, their opening hours and where to go out of hours.
- Respondents reported mixed confidence in finding information about specific health problems, with 61% finding this very or fairly easy.
- Most respondents would still use General Practitioners as the first point of contact for primary care. Whilst 61% saw community pharmacy as an appropriate place to access treatment, far fewer people (18-33%) said they would go a pharmacy for a new, non-life threatening health problem.
- People with fewer formal qualifications and people with a limiting long term illness were more likely to report finding it difficult to find health information.
Who: trust, confidence and experience with professionals
- Awareness of doctors and nurses working in general practice was high (87-92% of respondents aware) but was more mixed for other primary care professionals (51-56%). Awareness was lowest of healthcare staff who refer patients to social and community services (33% aware).
- Over 75% of respondents reported trusting doctors, nurses and dentists but trust in other others professionals in the multi-disciplinary team was more mixed (52-66% reporting trust). Those living with a limiting long term condition reported lower trust in professionals.
- Whilst 66% of respondents reported they were happy for a practice receptionist to decide which professional they would see, 76% would still prefer this decision to be made by a GP.
- Although 85% of respondents were given the chance to ask questions about their care and treatment on their most recent visit, only 70% of respondents found it easy to ask questions of healthcare professionals in general.
- While 92% of respondents felt that they were listened to on their most recent interaction with a primary care professional, only 66% found it easy to articulate their health concerns so that they were understood.
- Those living in the least deprived areas were more likely to feel informed and empowered when using primary care: they were more likely to report finding it easy to find information about specific health problems, express their health concerns, understand healthcare professionals and to ask questions until they understand.
- By contrast, those with a limiting long term illness were less likely to report finding it easy to find health information, express their health concerns and ask questions of health professionals.
- Despite these concerns, 78% respondents reported feeling satisfied with their most recent interaction with primary care and there were no differences in satisfaction with different professional groups.
How: access and barriers in primary care
- Nearly half of respondents (46%) reported that it was difficult to get an appointment at their general practice, while around a third of respondents found it difficult to be available during practice opening times.
- 30% of respondents had not contacted general practice in the last 12 months. Of those, 70% had not needed to and 24% had accessed other services. However, not wanting to burden the NHS (17%), general avoidance (14%) and anxiety (10%) were other reasons for not contacting a general practice.
- 68% of respondents reported having their most recent interaction with a primary care provider face to face while only 3% had a video call appointment.
- Satisfaction was higher for face to face interactions (84%) than over the phone (68%) or video appointments (64%).
- Whilst the majority of healthcare services are free, 75% of respondents who had been to the dentist in the last 12 months felt that they were given clear information about treatment options and costs. However, only 54% thought the costs involved were reasonable and 16% thought cost was a barrier.
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