This Healthwatch in Sussex report assessed people’s views about accessing GP appointments.

A total of 851 people responded to an online survey. Some questions allowed us to see whether people’s views and experiences about remote GP appointments have changed two years since the pandemic began (by comparing some findings from a project undertaken in June 2020).

By Healthwatch in Sussex
GP Healthwatch in Sussex

Questions included whether people had delayed appointments despite having a need, online booking systems, patient views of GP websites, ‘happiness’ for remote appointments, attitudes to phone and video GP appointments, preference towards different aspects of remote appointments, and enhanced access to GP practices.

Summary of key points including comparing 2022 data with an earlier 2020 survey:

  • There are a sizeable proportion (53.7%) of people describing themselves as having their ‘day-to-day activities limited because of a health problem or disability which has lasted, or is expected to last, at least 12 months’ – up from 39.2% in 2020. Those reporting a mental health condition had increased from 17.9% in 2020 (among those reporting a disability) compared to 28.7% in 2022.
  • A hybrid system of appointments, remote and face-to-face when needed, is the most appealing option for GP patients, some 25 percentage points ahead of the next preferred option (appointments by phone).
  • Around 1 in 6 people objected to all remote options and preferred exclusively face-to-face appointments.
  • Compared to the earlier survey in 2020, a greater proportion of people showed some criticism towards remote GP appointments – more agreeing that ‘only having phone or video appointments with my GP would put me off from getting support’ and less agreeing that ‘I think you can get just as much advice from a GP by phone or video compared to a face-to- face’.
  • These findings indicate some reluctance towards having remote appointments, although it is difficult to speculate why this is the case. Is it because face-to-face is more available at the time of this survey, compared to June 2020, or is it a genuine decline in satisfaction towards remote appointments, supported by the preference towards a mixture of remote and face-to-face appointments depending on the condition?
  • Online booking (for example through Patient Access or the NHS App) is not always available or preferred even if people have the necessary digital skills. Given this finding was from a digital survey, the proportion unable to use or not preferring an online booking form is likely to be an underestimate.
  • A significant proportion of people have delayed or postponed appointments with their GP and have sought alternative advice from Accident and Emergency departments, NHS111 and the NHS App. Waiting times to contact the surgery, or appointments only available a few days or weeks away, compounds this issue.
  • When controlling for the influence of other factors (gender, ethnicity, etc), people with disabilities and younger people were more likely to have ever delayed an appointment with a GP since the pandemic. This difference by disability was also evident in the 2020 report.
  • People expressed that areas needing reference on all GP websites include advice on mental health and how patient data is kept secured.
  • Most people showed a strong preference to having appointments as soon as possible and having a more precise time when they will receive a phone or video call, overriding the preference to see their regular GP. A preference to see a GP as soon as possible had increased significantly between 2020 and 2022.
  • Most people had not heard of enhanced access to GP practices but saw this as potentially beneficial in accessing support.
  • Differences by age were a consistent theme in the data. Older people were less likely to use an online booking system, less likely to prefer remote appointments, and saw less importance to being able to book a phone and/or video appointment via an online booking method. These differences by age were also present in the 2020 report and show evidence of an ongoing variation in opinion.

View the report

Click the link below to download the report

Full Report Access to GP appointments across Sussex – public opinion Download File (pdf 858.09 KB)
Executive Summary Access to GP appointments across Sussex – public opinion Download File (pdf 112.21 KB)
Infographic Access to GP appointments across Sussex – public opinion Download File (pdf 378.62 KB)

Related Reports

Healthwatch in Sussex – Accessing Health and Care Services – Interview Report

The conversations outlined in this report were with a sample who completed the ‘Accessing health and care services: findings during the Coronavirus pandemic’ survey.

Healthwatch in Sussex
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