Most doctors think patient care has deteriorated and won’t be improved by reforms

Authors: Helen Jaques 

Publication date:  15 Jun 2012

Hospital doctors and GPs believe that the quality of care provided by their local NHS has got worse and will not be improved by new initiatives such as clinical commissioning and opening up service delivery to the private sector, research commissioned by the Department of Health has found.

The NHS staff tracking survey, carried out among 1130 NHS staff in winter 2011, found that GPs and hospital doctors had among the lowest levels of staff satisfaction with local service delivery (66% for GPs and 71% for hospital doctors versus 76% for NHS staff overall).

Almost half (47%) of the 200 GPs and a third (31%) of the 150 hospital doctors who took part in the telephone survey thought that patient care had worsened over the past 12 months, with the proportion of GPs thinking this rising by 30 percentage points from summer 2009 to winter 2011.

Nearly two thirds (61%) of GPs and and over half (57%) of hospital doctors expected the quality of patient care to continue to deteriorate over the next few years, compared with half (53%) of NHS staff overall.

Both the proportion of NHS staff overall who believe that care has worsened in the past 12 months and the proportion who think it will continue to get worse has risen steadily since autumn 2008, says the report.

The NHS staff attitudes tracking survey has been conducted regularly since 2008 to provide an overview of NHS staff morale, engagement, and attitudes towards a range of health department and NHS initiatives.

The winter 2011 survey, published alongside the public’s perceptions of the NHS and social care, asked NHS staff their views on initiatives on patient choice; clinical commissioning; the quality, innovation, productivity and prevention (QIPP) programme; community services; and health visiting.

Hospital doctors were less likely than other NHS staff to think that the introduction of clinical commissioning would improve patient care (30% versus 46% on average) or how effectively the NHS operates (34% versus 41%).

A third of GPs and a fifth of senior hospital doctors above the specialty trainee grade thought that opening up the provision of NHS services to a wider range of providers, such as the private sector and charities, would have a positive effect on patients’ experience of the NHS; and similar proportions (29% of GPs and 23% of senior hospital doctors) believed that opening up provision would improve the quality of patient care.

More than two thirds of GPs (67%) and senior hospital doctors (76%) thought that the changes to service provision would have a negative effect on the longer term stability of NHS organisations.

More than two thirds (69%) of hospital doctors did not think the NHS would be able to make the required efficiency savings at the same time as delivering the government’s reforms.

  • Download the full survey results from the Department of Health’s website at [Link] .

Helen Jaques news reporter BMJ Careers

Cite this as BMJ Careers ; doi: