News & Media

How can we help patients feel confident to go to primary care buildings when they’re asked to?


We’ve been supporting the Patients Association on a project to explore how patients are feeling about going to primary care buildings in person at the moment, when they’re asked to attend face-to-face appointments.

The charity’s report found a high degree of confidence among patients about visiting GP premises in person, despite the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Two thirds of patients reported feeling very (35%) or somewhat (31%) confident about making such a visit.

Measures such as having hand sanitiser and Perspex screens at reception would increase this confidence further, with relatively few patients concerned about them. Patients reported that Perspex screens would make them feel either very or a little safe (74%), confident (92%) and comfortable (89%), with only 15% feeling they would be very or a little anxious. A clear majority (67%) would not enter the building without hand sanitiser being available.

Other measures that patients wanted to see included signs clearly reminding people to wear face masks (52% would not enter the building without them) and giving directions for navigating around the building (47%). A one-way system was identified as something that would make patients feel more comfortable (47% reporting this, 33% citing it as a requirement to enter the building), as were floor markings for social distancing (46% ‘more comfortable’ and 32% ‘requirement’).

Just over a third (36%) of respondents managed to visit their GP practice in person during the coronavirus period, although 79% had used GP services of some sort. Those who were able to attend in person overwhelmingly felt welcome (89%), safe (93%) and confident (89%), although 47% also reported feeling anxious to some degree.


The survey also provides further confirmation that for remote consultations, phone calls (offered to 78% of respondents) were the mainstream option, compared to video calls (offered only to 7%). However, phone calls resolved the patient’s issue in 62% of cases, but not the remaining 38%.

Rachel Power, Chief Executive of the Patients Association, commented: “These results show that patients are keen to visit their GP’s premises in person, and feel confident about doing so. They also show that remote consultations have worked well for some patients, but that real-world access to premises is essential for others. In reopening its primary care services, the NHS must ensure that the options for accessing GP premises meet the needs of all patients, and build on the strong confidence in visiting their GPs that patients continue to hold.”

Our CEO, Jonathan Murphy said: “The environments in which we access healthcare are fundamental to the experiences we have and our perceptions of the care we receive. There’s much we can do through physical buildings to help patients feel confident and safe to be there when their GPs ask them to come – and really focusing on this will be a key part of work to make sure people needing NHS services, tests and treatment in person are accessing them as we move through the winter and beyond with COVID-19.”