Background: The UK National GP Patient Survey is one of the largest ever survey programmes of patients registered to receive primary health care, inviting five million respondents to report their experience of NHS primary healthcare. The third such annual survey (2008/9) involved the development of a new survey instrument. We describe the process of that development, and the findings of an extensive pilot survey in UK primary healthcare.
Methods: The survey was developed following recognised guidelines and involved expert and stakeholder advice, cognitive testing of early versions of the survey instrument, and piloting of the questionnaire in a cross sectional pilot survey of 1,500 randomly selected individuals from the UK electoral register with two reminders to non-respondents.
Results: The questionnaire comprises 66 items addressing a range of aspects of UK primary healthcare. A response rate of 590/1500 (39.3%) was obtained. Non response to individual items ranged from 0.8% to 15.3% (median 5.2%). Participants did not always follow internal branching instructions in the questionnaire although electronic controls allow for correction of this problem in analysis. There was marked skew in the distribution of responses to a number of items indicating an overall favourable impression of care. Principal components analysis of 23 items offering evaluation of various aspects of primary care identified three components (relating to doctor or nurse care, or addressing access to care) accounting for 68.3% of the variance in the sample.
Conclusion: The GP Patient Survey has been carefully developed and pilot-tested. Survey findings, aggregated at practice level, will be used to inform the distribution of pound sterling 65 million ($107 million) of UK NHS resource in 2008/9 and this offers the opportunity for NHS service planners and providers to take account of users' experiences of health care in planning and delivering primary healthcare in the UK.