Why don’t doctors believe patient surveys?

Our recent paper (Asprey et al BJGP March 2013) shows that GPs find a whole range of reasons for doubting the results of the patient surveys that are now made publicly available on a regular basis (www.gp-patient.co.uk). 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 unease about the influence of political influences underpinning its introduction and use.
What can be done to make patient surveys more useful? Or at least more used? One of the problems is that the information is always months old and can so easily be ignored. Our group is now starting to explore real time feedback in which patient views will be able to be fed back to GPs in a much more timely way. For others wanting to try this, an NHS handbook gives some guidance (www.practicemanagement.org.uk).
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