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Evidence at a glance on the GP Patient Survey

The English GP Patient Survey is the largest and most reliable source of information for practices about how patients view their experience. The survey produces detailed data that help practices to identify and target areas which might result in improved patient experience. But practices vary in how, and how much, they use the survey data to address patient perceptions. There is scope for greater use of the data.

What did the research programme find?

  • Patients found questionnaires to be limited tools for expressing concerns about consultations and were reluctant to criticise their GPs. There was a tendency for patients to choose positive options in questionnaires. This contrasts with more critical judgements of GPs’ skills in consultations when they reviewed filmed consultations. Patient scores in the survey may present an over-optimistic view of GPs’ care. However, this optimism likely applies to all practices and so whether a practice scores above or below the national average – or other practices – is likely to be robust.
  • Minority ethnic groups provide consistently low scores in the GP patient survey. When research focused on South Asian respondents, there was no evidence that these patients used the rating scores differently from White British patients.  A video-based test of perceptions of consultations suggested that low scores among South Asian patients reflected care that is genuinely worse than that of white patients, as opposed to simply reflecting differences in prior expectations of care.
  • GP practice staff expressed concerns about the validity and reliability of the patient survey data and about how representative the survey respondents were. Many practices are sceptical about the value of the survey for improving the services they provide to patients.

Questions for professionals and the public

For GPs and practice teams

  • Do you share and discuss the GP Patient Survey data for your practice?
  • Looking at the most recent GP patient survey data and given the pressures that you work under, what is the one thing you could change that might improve patient experience in your practice?
  • The patient survey data suggests that minority ethnic patients receive poorer consultations than patients in the general population. How can you examine this in your team and how might you address this?  What provisions do you need to make to improve the consultations of minority ethnic patients, especially older female patients?

For Clinical Commissioning Groups

  • How do you support the awareness and use of the GPPS data in the practices within the CCG? Can you draw on expertise or support from your Commissioning Support Unit for this?

 For Patient Participation Groups

  • Do you share and discuss the GP patient survey data for your practice?
  • Do you know how your practice compares with the national average and with other local practices?
  • Are you aware of changes that your practice has made on the basis of the GP patient survey data?
  • Do you feel that you help the practice maximise the value of all the data that is derived from the survey? If not, what needs to change?
  • What do you think should happen in your practice as indicated by the survey data?

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