Headlines: August 17th, 1998

The Government has hailed the announcement of a rolling survey of public views about the NHS as being the tool that will deliver a ‘service moulded to the needs of the people.’

From this autumn, 150,000 health service users will be polled for their views in the first annual exercise of its kind. This will be backed by rolling investigations in specific areas of health care, and detailed investigations into particular hospitals and trusts.

The survey will be independent – conducted by an non-NHS organisation. Those surveyed will be people who have used the NHS recently, and participation in the survey will be voluntary, retaining patient confidentiality.

Topics to be covered include ease of access to services, length of wait for treatment, quality of information provided about treatment, privacy and dignity of care provided, courtesy and helpfulness of staff.

Health Secretary Frank Dobson said: “It is quite extraordinary that the National
Health Service has been in existence for half a century, without patients and users having an automatic right to a voice at the heart of the service. The NHS, an organisation with a budget of over thirty seven billion pounds of taxpayers’ money, has never regularly asked its users what they think of the service they are getting.

“The public pay for the NHS. They depend on the NHS. They have the right to say how they think it should be run and what it should deliver. What we want is a system that is moulded to the needs of the patient. Too often in the past, we have had things the other way around.”

Health Authorities and NHS Trusts will need to demonstrate that they have taken action to address the issues raised by the survey, and so will the Government. The NHS Executive will use the data as part of the new National Performance framework, to show where improvements are needed and to make the NHS more responsive to the needs and wishes of patients.