Headlines: May 26th, 2006

The vast majority of hospital in-patients are well satisfied with their care, according to the results of the annual survey published today by the Healthcare Commission but it highlights the need for improvements in the information given to patients, cleanliness in hospitals and in some areas of care.The survey, now in its third year, is one of the biggest assessments of patients’ views, capturing the experiences of more than 80,000 adults from all 169 NHS acute and specialist trusts in England. It covers the national picture and the opinions of patients in individual areas, giving the trusts an independent view of what patients think and allowing them to compare their results to the national average and to those of similar NHS trusts. The findings are also fed into the Commission’s system for measuring the performance of NHS organisations that has replaced star ratings.

Today’s findings show 92 per cent of patients rated their overall care as excellent, very good or good. The proportion giving such ratings varied from 100 per cent in some trusts to 80 per cent in others. Almost 80 per cent of patients believed they were always treated with dignity and respect while they were in the hospital. There was greater variation across trusts, though, ranging from 96 per cent to 61 per cent.

Ambulance services were also highly rated with 9 out of 10 patients saying they definitely found crews reassuring and 95 per cent saying they had always been treated with dignity and respect. Fewer patients also reported waiting four hours or longer to be admitted to a ward from an accident and emergency department.

The survey does highlight areas that need improvement, particularly the need for more help for those patients needing assistance to eat their meals.The survey also shows concern over the information given to patients when they leave hospital. More than 40 per cent said they were discharged without being told about the side effects of medication and the same number saying they were not told about the danger signals they should watch out for once they were at home. Almost a quarter were not told whom to contact if they were worried about their condition.

Fifty two per cent of patients thought their room or ward was “very clean”, falling from 56 per cent in 2002. The proportion of patients saying this ranged from 89 per cent in some trusts to just 32 per cent in others. Six per cent of patients felt wards were not very clean and two per cent rated them as not at all clean. Satisfaction with cleanliness in toilets has also fallen.

Anna Walker, the Chief Executive of the Healthcare Commission, said staff should take heart from the results but she said patients were are still sending a clear message that there was more work to do. “Providing patients with the right information, in the right format and at the right time is crucial to their treatment and recovery, yet so many tell us that they are not receiving this. At a time when we are all concerned to encourage care in the community, and patients favour this, it is essential that we get it right,” she said. There were also important questions about the service patients got on wards. “It is absolutely essential that people get the help that they need with eating as good nourishment plays such an important role in patient care and recovery. We will assess trusts’ performance in this area rigorously,” she added.