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MAY 22/2014

How can staff help to further improve hospital satisfaction rates?

One of the key priorities for nursing staff in the NHS is to ensure the patients in their care are receiving a standard of service that meets their individual needs and expectations.

Naturally, the number one goal of treatment is to ensure patients are treated as quickly and effectively as possible, but there are many other important variables that can have both positive and negative impacts on a person's overall experience of hospital care.

A recent report from the Care Quality Commission shed light on the overall level of satisfaction with NHS hospital care, revealing many reasons for staff to take encouragement - as well as highlighting areas in which improvements can still be made.

Getting better
The national survey gathered the views of over 62,400 people who had stayed in hospital for at least one night last year, with the results revealing that overall, patients are generally having a better experience in hospital now than was the case a year ago.

Around one-quarter - 27 per cent - of those polled gave their overall experience in hospital the maximum ten out of ten rating, while 71 per cent rated their overall experience as eight or above. These two figures were up from 25 per cent and 69 per cent the previous year.

The proportion of people who felt they were always treated with dignity and respect also rose, while the vast majority of patients believe they were given the “right amount” of information about their condition or treatment by A&E or hospital ward staff.

All of the country's NHS trusts received strong evaluation results in terms of whether people trusted and had confidence in their doctors, suggesting that hospitals are performing well on most key metrics.

Work still needed
However, there were a number of areas in which the overall standard of performance could improve. Although 54 per cent of patients felt that they were definitely involved in decisions about their discharge from hospital, this left 46 per cent who did not, while 41 per cent said their discharge was delayed.

Meanwhile, 39 per cent felt they were not given sufficient information about the side effects of their medication before being sent home, meaning doctors and nurses may need to work on developing better protocols when discharging patients.

Moreover, regional variations in performance between different NHS trusts was observed on a number of measures, such as whether patients were told how to make complaints about their care, whether they received copies of letters sent between their hospital doctors and GPs, and whether they were informed about danger signals to watch out for after being discharged.

The growing pressure to improve
This comes at a time when patient satisfaction levels are high on the government's NHS reform agenda. A new tool called the Friends and Family Test was recently introduced across the health service, which involves asking patients whether or not they would recommend their experience to loved ones.

Results from this test will help to shed further light on the performance of individual hospitals in future, increasing the pressure to maintain the very highest standards.

Responding to the CQC report, Professor Sir Mike Richards, the UK's chief inspector of hospitals, said: "I would like NHS trusts to reflect on their survey results to understand what their patients really think about the care and treatment they provide. This will help them to identify what they need to change."

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