The results of the 2021 GP Patient Survey were recently published, providing some of the first insights into patient experience since the start of the pandemic. But with concerns having been raised before about a widening inequality gap, here we look at how the results vary with the level of socioeconomic deprivation in the area where a patient lives.
The results of the 2021 survey show that experience of care was overwhelmingly maintained from the previous year – an extraordinary feat given that the majority of these contacts took place during the biggest health crisis of our generation.
83% of patients reported a ‘good’ overall experience of general practice, and 96% had confidence and trust in the health professional they saw or spoke to.
Nevertheless, it is hard to ignore the inequalities in experience of general practice. People from the most deprived areas were less likely to report their needs being met, had a poorer overall experience and a worse experience of making an appointment.
These findings are not a new phenomenon, and there are a number of factors that could be contributing to the difference in experience. Patients in deprived areas are more likely to have multiple long-term conditions, resulting in a greater level of need, making their needs more difficult to meet.
But at the same time, the Health Foundation has said that general practice is “underfunded and under-doctored” in more deprived areas. There is an imbalance between resources and levels of need.
As the number of general practice appointments returns to pre-pandemic levels following a substantial fall, the question for service leaders is what it will take to close the gap at a time when the health service is in a state of recovery.
The results were taken from the 2021 GP Patient Survey, an England-wide survey of patients aged 16+. 850,206 surveys were returned completed between 4 January and 6 April 2021. 78% of people reported that they had tried to make a general practice appointment in the last 12 months, so for some respondents their most recent contact with the service may have been before the pandemic.
The results are displayed by Index of Multiple Deprivation (IMD) quintiles, as published by NHS England in their national report. The Index of Multiple Deprivation (IMD) is the official measure of deprivation for small geographical areas in England. These small areas are called Lower-layer Super Output Areas (LSOAs). The Index of Multiple Deprivation (IMD) combines information from several sources of data such as income, housing, employment and education.