As well as the poll on history, there was a second YouGov poll in today’s Telegraph covering people’s satisfaction with their GPs. The Telegraph’s report headlined the fact that only 44% of respondents said they had always been able to see a GP within 2 working days, when the Government said in May that “almost everybody” was able to see a doctor within 48 hours, putting the figure at over 99%.

I suspect part of the explanation for this is, as suggested by Andrew Lansley, that the government’s figures do not include people who ring their doctor’s surgery but cannot get through and give up. There is also the question of exactly when people last tried to visit their doctors; YouGov’s question asked specifically about visits to the GP in the last 12 months, but only 6% of YouGov’s respondents said they hadn’t been to their GP in the last six months, which seems remarkably low; I haven’t been to my GP in the last 12 years, let alone the last 12 months. MORI’s regular surveys of public perceptions of NHS services, carried out for the Department of Health, typically report that around 80% of people have visited their GP in the last year, while the Healthcare Commission’s figures, based on a self-completed postal survey of 120,000 patients, suggest that 85% of people went to their GP in the last year. My guess is that some of YouGov’s respondents were actually thinking of GP visits they made more than a year ago.

The Healthcare Commission’s figures also indicate that an awful lot of people are waiting more than 2 days though – 23% of people said they had to wait more than two days the last time they went to the doctors. It is a different question design to YouGov – the Healthcare Commission asked about just last time, while YouGov asked people to consider all the times they visited the doctors in the last year – but both of them suggest that a lot more people have to wait for a doctors appointment than the Government claim.

An interesting factor highlighted by the Telegraph’s analysis of the poll is that young people (under 30s) claimed to have less satisfactory service from their GPs and were less satisfied with their GP than older respondents (over 50s). Young people were much less satisified overall (19% said they were very satisfied compared to 47% of over 50s), their doctors spent less time with them, gave them less clear explanations, they were less likely to see the same GP, they were less likely to think the service had improved and doctors take their opinions less seriously.

There are, as the Telegraph says, at least two potential explanations for this. It could be that young people simply have greater expectations from the NHS than older respondents, and are less satisifed with the same quality of service. On the other hand, it could be a reflection of the fact that older respondents are more likely to visit their GP, are more likely to have built up a rapport with the doctor and their reception staff over a long period of time and are therefore likely to recieve a better service.


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