Conducting a GP / health service experience survey

Patient experiences as a component of datasets are essential and not just based on health. They can play a significant role is securing grants, equalities funding and develop further, more targeted consultations.

“The needs of the city has changed a lot and now we are pulling all funds together into one pot, the VCSE co-producing and building needs analysis/evidence cases supports engagement in commissioning, especially integrated commissioning….this is essential, for all groups not just those with protected characteristics”

Manchester City Council

Benefits of this approach to the LGF (also applicable for other groups)

  • An improved understanding of the needs and experiences of the local population. Commissioners/strategy leads want (and need) to know what is happening for their population so it can really help to make the case for LGB&T inclusivity to present data on people who are actually accessing services from those commissioners/providers.
  • Related to this, it’s really important that service providers and advocacy organisations understand the needs of LGB&T people locally so that they can
    a)      meet those needs
    b)      lobby for policy changes which will address these needs.
  • Things do change, and so it’s important that we conduct new research regularly in order to get an up to date picture.

    For example, there were a few pieces of research from the early 2000’s suggesting around 50% of LGB people were not out to their GP; our research in 2013 found that this was more like 30%. That suggests that things are improving
  • Getting people’s stories – as well as an online survey (quantitative research) conducting focus groups with patients (qualitative research)  brings anecdotal evidence, quotes and case studies of real people’s experiences.

    While statistics can be very useful, an often a well-placed quote or case study can really make the difference to the reader – it’s about that human element and even identification.
  • The findings can be produced as a report, also highlighting statistics/quotes in funding bids, promotional materials, monitoring reports to funders, etc. There can be a lot of different uses from one research exercise!

Step by step approach:

  • Look at what evidence is already out there on your chosen topic (a literature review). There are lots of sources of information, some of which you will have to pay for unless you are attached to an academic institution, but plenty are free.

    Try the LGF’s Evidence Exchange, a free online database of LGB&T statistics (, the Local Government Association’s Knowledge Hub (, your local council’s information department (e.g. MCC’s online intelligence hub), the Network of Public Health Observatories (, ONS, also libraries, Google Scholar, etc.
  • Use the literature review, and your project’s aims and objectives, to define what you want to find out. Consider how much time and resource you have available – it’s better to do a small project really well rather than start something massive that you’ll never be able to do justice to.
  • Write your questionnaire (or focus group plan). Make sure your questions are suitable for the method – focus group questions should be relatively open questions, as they need to encourage discussion in the group, whereas questionnaire questions need to be more focussed.

    If you want to use your findings to compare the experiences of a minority group with the general population, then look at surveys aimed at the general population and copy those questions (e.g. you don’t want to ask a question about how many times LGB people have exercised in the last month, if a general population survey has found out about people’s exercise in the last week).
  • Most people complete surveys online these days, and there is some good free survey software out there (e.g. Google Surveys, Survey Monkey). Make sure there is a paper copy available too, as some people prefer it and if you are going to an event, it is easier to take a bunch of paper copies than to give out a link which they might forget.
  • Promote it! On your organisation’s website, bulletin, social media sites and ask other people to do so too (personal or organisational). Remember, the more respondents you have the more reliable your evidence base is.
  • Analyse it. This can often be the tricky part, and it’s worth attending a course or on data analysis if you’re not already familiar with it. You want to make sure that your findings are presented accurately, as this will make your argument stronger.
  • Then use it – you might want to write a report and share it with contacts, even upload it to your website and to the LGF’s Evidence Exchange, so that other people can use it too.
  • Evaluate the process – lots of people forget this bit, but taking the time to identify what worked well, what didn’t and how you could improve this next time, can be invaluable.

“Survey was great mainly reinforces what we already knew - Manchester was no different – key to share with partners”

Black Health Agency (BHA)

“Survey data provides evidence for local people”

BHP participant

“Trans people have to be their own experts to access treatment”

TransForum Manchester

Discussion point

Think about how the evidence you collect on the healthcare needs of your client group – what do you know about their experiences of GP services? How is this then communicated to others to effect change, improve standards? Do you use it to influence policy or share it with CCGs – for the JSNA for example?


Read the LGB patient experience survey report and Trans* patient experience survey report and the examples given below.


  1. A survey of the experiences of a wide range of trans people at GP practices conducted as part of the BHP project strongly reflected their needs and endorsed the requirement for basic trans awareness training amongst all health providers and their staff. TransForum Manchester are working with the Gender Identity Research and Education Society (GIRES) and the Welsh Ambulance and Welsh Public Health Screening Services to provide guidance documentation and an e-learning resource.

    And, a trans study with CPD hours; organised by Cheshire and Wirral Partnership with Manchester Mental Health Trust was also delivered demonstrating excellent practice in trans awareness education and a learning opportunity for all those involved in delivering health care.
  2. The State of Caring 2013
  3. The Black Health Agency

    The State Of Health for Black and Other Minority Groups was intended to pull together all research on health issues that are prevalent among black and other minority groups at a national, regional and local level. However on conducting the research it was evident that the majority of information available was national and the health areas identified were highly likely to be replicated locally. It is therefore being considered whether there is merit in conducting a similar exercise at a local level in Manchester and how we build on this.

    The report is not just a compilation of research findings but also includes measures to tackle the disparities in health. The report went to Public Health Manchester as a contribution to the JSNA process. Elements of it have been incorporated into the recommendations for further work. There has been positive feedback from some CCGs and Healthwatch organisations who intend to use the document.
  4. The Stroke Association have surveyed stroke survivors over the years which has highlighted a the lack of understanding that remains about stroke generally.

Practical consideration

Think about your project’s aims and objectives, to define what you want to find out. Consider how much time and resource you have available – it’s better to do a small project really well rather than start something massive that you’ll never be able to do justice to.

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