Abstracts: June 10th, 2009

This report from the Department of Health sets out findings from a review of the systems in place for informing the commissioning, service design and policy decisions that drive service improvement towards meeting better customer needs and preferences. Customers include the overlapping groups of patients, service users, carers and the wider public as citizens, taxpayers and potential patients and service users.

The key findings from the review are that decisions about how customer experience information should be collected should be made locally and not prescribed from the centre. This is essential to gain optimum flexibility to drive service improvements at the local level. There should be a combination of tools and mechanisms to collect the appropriate information to support key decisions and these must be appropriate to the different customer groups under consideration, because engaging with some customer groups will require bespoke and tailored approaches.

There must be a clear understanding of the specific decisions to be informed, the type of information required and the robust methodology that will provide this information. This will require local organisations to work in partnership. The information must be collected and collated, taking into account its uses for multiple purposes and flow up the chain for further usage.

Although decisions must be taken locally about customer experience information, the data collected has to be joined up across the system. There needs to be stronger focus on ensuring that locally commissioned CEI is effectively disseminated across the health and social care systems through statutory, regulatory, contractual and other incentives. It is also important for best practice to be shared amongst providers in the public, third and private sectors. Sharing best practice needs to be encouraged in a way that counteracts any disincentives created through competition and choice.

The report is available from DoH.