A PATIENTS’ champion has hit out at the state of GP services, saying people are ‘very unhappy’ with them.

Russ McLean, chairman of the Pennine Lancashire Patient Voices Group, said patients are struggling to get GP appointments and that GPs are retiring and not being replaced.

And he said this has a ‘knock-on effect’ on accident and emergency departments, with patients struggling to get an appointment going to A&E instead.

His comments come as a new survey shows public satisfaction with GP services has dropped to the lowest level since the 1980s.

The British Social Attitudes survey, which has been tracking public opinion on the NHS since 1983, also found that public dissatisfaction with the overall the NHS is on the rise.

A survey by the National Centre for Social Research also found that as the health service celebrates its 70th birthday, just 57 per cent of people said they were satisfied with the NHS - the lowest level since 2011.

Meanwhile, dissatisfaction in the NHS has risen to 29 per cent - the highest in a decade, according to the research published by health think tanks The Nuffield Trust and The King’s Fund.

Reasons behind the drop in dissatisfaction with the NHS overall include long waiting times for GP or hospital appointments, the Government not spending enough money on the NHS and not enough NHS staff, experts said.

Mr McLean said: “This survey is very much reflected in what patients tell me and they are very unhappy.

“Patients have said they either can’t get appointments or are really struggling to get them.

“This has a knock-on effect on A&E when you get people who are not that ill ending up in A&E and people waiting 12 hours to be treated.

“You also get GPs retiring and not being replaced as no one wants to become a GP.

But health chiefs said a national survey conducted last year found that overall, 86 per cent of Blackburn residents and 85 per cent of those in East Lancashire rated their GP practice as 'good'.

Dr Malcolm Ridgway, Blackburn GP and clinical director at Blackburn with Darwen CCG said: "The NHS is still highly regarded and valued by the public."

Dr Richard Daly, Burnley GP and clinical director for primary Care at East Lancashire CCG said: "Satisfaction levels are high and when we look at the findings from the national GP survey with higher sample sizes for our area, we find that GP practices continue to be well regarded by patients locally, and patients have high levels of confidence and trust in their GP.”

Christine Pearson, director of nursing at East Lancashire Hospitals Trust (ELHT), said the latest Friends and Family Test survey in January 2018 showed that staff and services 'once again achieved very high satisfaction ratings.'

When asked if they were ‘likely’ or ‘extremely likely’ to recommend the trust service they had used, families and friends of patients rated inpatients at 98.6 per cent, emergency department at 82.81 per cent, maternity at 98.75 per cent, community nursing at 97.1 per cent and outpatients at 96 per cent.

“We’re extremely proud of these results which show our staff continue to put in the time and effort to provide the very best standard of care to our patients," added Ms Pearson.

An NHS England spokesman said: "While it is encouraging that for the second year in a row public concerns about waits have reduced, and public confidence that the NHS is using its funding well has again increased, these results understandably reflect a health service under pressure.

"With public satisfaction scores ranging from 65% for GPs to 23% for social care, these findings again confirm the public's enduring support for the NHS and the measures necessary to sustain it."