GP practices oversubscribed, but patient satisfaction remains high

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A health watchdog has found that GPs in Brighton and Hove have a third more patients than the national average, but despite this they were providing high-quality care.

A report from Healthwatch Brighton and Hove said four GP practices in the city have more than 4,000 patients per full time GP, and that the practice with the highest caseload had more than 6,000 patients to one GP.

The national average is just 1,762 patients, and the Brighton and Hove average is 2,394, Healthwatch said.

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This comes as eight GP practices in the city have closed over the last two years; the number of practices fell from 44 to 36.

Despite this, the report showed high satisfaction rates for the quality of care delivered by GPs and practice nurses; 85 per cent of those surveyed were happy with the care provided by their GP and the figure rose to 90 per cent for GP practice nurses.

However, a third of patients complained of difficulties making appointments to see their GP and nearly a quarter said they had to wait for more than a week for a routine appointment.

David Liley, Healthwatch Brighton and Hove chief officer, said: “Healthwatch found mixed results on accessing appointments but generally strong performance on providing high quality of care. Patients were pleased with the health care they received but were sometimes frustrated at the difficulty in accessing it.”

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The report was an in-depth review of GP practices in Brighton and Hove, and Healthwatch visited 29 practices, took comments from almost 1,500 patients and gathered information from all the GP practices in the city.

Fran McCabe the chair of Healthwatch Brighton and Hove said: “This is an important report giving a very positive message about high patient satisfaction with the care provided in the city by GPs and nurses. However it also shows that some GPs are carrying very heavy workloads. Waiting times to see a practice nurse are even longer that for GPs so that is not a viable alternative.

“Without more GPs and nurses the system will continue to be vulnerable particularly if further practice closures or mergers result in fewer doctors being available to treat a growing local population”

Healthwatch gave a number of recommendations from its findings, which included reducing patient caseloads at certain practices, to ensure all practices offer weekday evening and Saturday hours, and to improve consistency of quality across practices.

To read the report in full, click here.