ALMOST 40 per cent of Oxfordshire patients are “unsatisfied” with their GP surgery, a report has found.

Healthwatch Oxfordshire, the county's independent health and social care watchdog, conducted a survey to find out about people’s experiences of contacting their GPs.  

Almost 700 people across the county completed the survey responding to questions about their experiences of using different methods to contact their GP practice for appointments, information, advice and other services.

Although most people said they received the information or service for which they had contacted their practice, the survey found that 39 per cent were “unsatisfied” with the response.

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When asked to describe their experience contacting the surgeries, 24 per cent said they were “very unsatisfied”.

One in three people called their GP wishing to book a non-urgent appointment but many told the watchdog they were unsuccessful.  

Telephone was the most common method of communication but patients said they frequently struggled to get through because lines were engaged or waiting times were excessive.

The figures gathered by Healthwatch show that just one-quarter of people spoke to someone within five minutes of calling, while 20 per cent waited between five and 10 minutes.

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A further 12 per cent said they waited more than half an hour, and 8 per cent gave up waiting.

Of 661 people who told Healthwatch about when they last telephoned their GP, 61 per cent waited on hold or in a queue before their call was answered.

Waiting times varied, with 14 per cent of people saying they had to call more than once because the line was engaged and 9 per cent saying their call was cut off.

Oxford Mail: Responses to the question: How long were you waiting before you spoke to someone at the GP surgery? Credit: Healthwatch OxfordshireResponses to the question: How long were you waiting before you spoke to someone at the GP surgery? Credit: Healthwatch Oxfordshire

A small number, only 4 per cent, said their call was answered by a receptionist straight away and while 18 per cent were offered a call back from someone at the GP surgery.

The report also found that online tools and apps provide additional access to certain services but can be “time consuming or difficult to complete” and sometimes give “unhelpful” or “inappropriate” advice.

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It said: “People with without access or unable to use a telephone or digital communication, for example a computer or the internet, are likely to find it very difficult to contact a GP practice or use the online tools.

“The exclusion of vulnerable groups and people who rely on physical access to a health care provider worsens health and exacerbates health inequalities.”

Julie Dandridge, deputy director at the Oxfordshire Clinical Commissioning Group, said: “We are sorry to hear that some patients reported difficulty contacting their practice. 

“We routinely review the results of the patient access survey – a national IPSOS Mori survey which also looks at patient experiences – this is carried out annually and the latest reports can be found on