Between January and April more than 700,000 people responded – including 6,650 patients in the NHS Buckinghamshire CCG area.
The results show 69.4% of people in the area would describe their GP experience as ‘good’ – down from 84% in spring 2021, and the lowest in any year since 2018, when comparable data is first available.
The survey further found that 36.6% of people with long-term health conditions do not feel they have had enough support from local services – up from 20.3% last year.
Beccy Baird, senior fellow at independent think tank the King’s Fund, said: “For many of us, general practice is the front door to the NHS – these results show that patients are finding that door increasingly hard to push open.
“GPs are working harder than ever before, yet these findings show a dramatic fall in patients’ experience of getting an appointment.
“Many of the challenges patients face accessing their GP stem from the chronic staff shortages that have plagued services for years.
“Practices can’t recruit enough GPs, nurses or other professionals to meet the rising levels of need, because in many cases those staff simply don’t exist."
The results also show 18.5% of respondents in Buckinghamshire had avoided booking a necessary GP appointment because they did not want to burden the NHS, and 8.6% because they did not want to risk catching Covid-19.
Professor Martin Marshall, chairman of the Royal College of GPs, a membership body for the profession, said: “These findings reflect an over-stretched service, with GPs and our teams doing our best for patients under intense workload and workforce pressures.
“Ultimately, GPs, our teams and patients want the same thing – access to high quality and timely care – and we share patients’ frustrations when this can’t be delivered,” he added.
An NHS spokesperson told The Bucks Herald: “While more than seven in ten people have had a good overall experience of their GP practice and latest ONS stats show that there was a 15% rise in GP appointments in May, the NHS is determined to make it easier to get an appointment which is why the health service has invested record amounts in primary care, including offering a new telephone service which increases the number of phone lines practices have for patients.
“General Practice has delivered 35 million more appointments over the last year compared to the year before and while practices are busy, they remain open, and we would encourage people to come forward with any worrying symptoms or health issues they may have.”
Across England, satisfaction was at its lowest level on record, with 72% of respondents describing their overall experience as ‘good’ – down from 83% last year.
The survey results were weighted and rebalanced to account for differences in age, gender, and other demographic factors between areas.
An NHS spokeswoman said the NHS is “determined to make it easier to get an appointment, which is why the health service has invested record amounts in primary care, including offering a new telephone service which increases the number of phone lines practices have for patients".
She said practices are open and encouraged people to come forward with any worrying symptoms or health issues.