In this series of articles, we give highlights from our report Pandemic Patient Experience II, which explores people's experiences during the latter part of the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Many respondents to our survey chose to stay away from healthcare settings because of the pandemic, but it was more common for patients to struggle to access treatment.

Two thirds of respondents (66%) reported struggling to access one or more services compared to just over half (56%) who had delayed accessing services or treatments since March 2020.

Particularly striking were the findings around access to GP services. In our 2020 survey, 24% of respondents reported difficulties in getting GP appointments; this had risen to 36% in our 2021 poll, and this was the single biggest rise among all the health and social care services we asked about.

If GPs are the front door to the NHS, then patients are increasingly perceiving that the door is closed to them. We call on the NHS to restore face-to-face contact as the default form for GP appointments, and we also support Healthwatch England’s call for a review of GP access as part of the NHS’s recovery from the pandemic.