The UK government has encouraged NHS services to obtain patient feedback to support the further development of patient-centred care. In 2009, the English GP Patient Survey included a sample of 5.5 million, but little is known about its potential utility in informing developments aimed at improving the quality of patients’ experiences of primary care.
To investigate primary care providers’ response to feedback on patient experience from a national survey.
Design and setting
Qualitative interview study in 10 general practices from four primary care trusts in England.
Semi-structured interviews were conducted with GPs, practice nurses, and practice managers (n = 37). Transcripts were analysed thematically.
Although some participants reported making changes to their practice in response to the survey data, many expressed doubts about the credibility of the results. Key issues included: concerns about practical aspects of the survey, such as the response rate and representativeness of the sample; the view that it gave insufficient detail to facilitate change and failed to address some salient issues; and unease about the influence of political influences underpinning its introduction and use.
Although, in general, primary care professionals have positive attitudes towards patient feedback, this study suggests a mismatch between the conventional demonstration of the objectivity of a questionnaire survey and the attitudes and experiences of those receiving the data. This is likely to prevent doctors from engaging constructively with the survey. These concerns may well militate against the potential of the survey to act as a simple means of capturing, and effectively using, feedback from patients.