New public satisfaction rates reflect 'crippling' staffing and resource pressures

The Kings Fund and Nuffield Trust has released a report, 'Public satisfaction with the NHS and social care in 2021’. Responding, Professor Martin Marshall, Chair of the Royal College of GPs and a GP in East London, said:

“We are extremely disappointed and saddened by these findings, which reflect a service working under crippling staffing and resource pressures following the pandemic. This has pushed general practice, and the wider NHS, to its limits.

“Hardworking GPs have been at the forefront of delivering safe and appropriate care throughout the pandemic. They ensured patients received care and services when many other parts of the NHS had to severely limit access or shut down. GP teams also led the complex mass vaccination programmes that have been so successful in protecting patients and bringing the Covid-19 virus under control.

“It is reassuring that quality of care, the range of services offered, and attitudes and behaviours of staff continue to be key reasons for patients being satisfied with NHS care. These all speak to the efforts of GPs and our teams to do the best for our patients in the most difficult of circumstances.

“GPs and patients want the same thing, and we share patients’ concerns about the difficulties they face in accessing GP appointments. It is vital that today’s report is not used as another opportunity to denigrate and demoralise hardworking GP teams. These findings should serve as a wake-up call to Government and policymakers on the need for urgent action to boost the GP workforce. This would ensure that there are enough GPs and practice team members to deliver safe, timely and appropriate care to all patients.

“General practice was stretched to its limits before the pandemic, but the intense workload and workforce pressures have been exacerbated by the crisis. GPs and our teams carry out the vast majority of patient contacts in the NHS. We are now also managing cases of ‘long Covid’ in the community, and the care of patients waiting for operations or specialist consultations while the NHS clears the backlog caused by the pandemic. The profession must be supported not only to provide good access to services, but personalised care for patients, which is becoming increasingly difficult to deliver.

“The GP workforce is no longer big enough to meet demand. Successive governments have failed to invest in our service and GP numbers have declined while our workload has escalated in volume and complexity. More GPs are in training than ever before. But when more are leaving the profession than entering it, we are fighting a losing battle.

“Key to this is addressing the ‘undoable’ workload in general practice, which is leading to GPs burning out and leaving the profession earlier than planned. That’s why we urgently need the current Government to deliver on its 2019 election manifesto pledge, of 6,000 additional GPs and 26,000 more members of the wider practice team by 2024.”

Further information

RCGP Press office: 020 3188 7659

Notes to editor

The Royal College of General Practitioners is a network of more than 52,000 family doctors working to improve care for patients. We work to encourage and maintain the highest standards of general medical practice and act as the voice of GPs on education, training, research and clinical standards.