The national survey of NHS outpatients has shown improvement in the way that patients perceive key aspects of care including being seen on time or early for their appointment, cleanliness, respect, dignity and communication with doctors. However, there are still a number of areas where improvement is needed.
There has been an increase since the last outpatient’s survey in 2009 in the proportion of patients seen on time or early for their appointment. An increased proportion of all patients felt they were treated with respect and dignity, more patients reported that doctors gave explanations for the reasons for action or treatment, and gave understandable answers to questions. More outpatients also felt involved in decisions about their care and treatment.
The Commission today (Tuesday) published results from the fourth national outpatient survey, carried out by 163 acute trusts in England. Over 72,000 people who attended outpatient departments in April or May 2011 completed the survey. Fieldwork for the survey took place between June and October 2011.
Since 2009 the proportion of repeat attendees at outpatients departments who responded to the survey has increased, and fewer of the respondents had attended an outpatients appointment for the first time. This may have influenced the overall results of the survey and may explain some of the changes shown. The results of the survey also revealed that repeat attendees are more likely to have a long term condition. Of those who responded to the survey; first time attendees to the outpatient departments were more likely to receive explanations about treatments and tests and fewer repeat attendees reported having their treatments and test results explained fully in a way they could understand.
Overall the results show significant improvements in a number of aspects of patients’ experience, such as feeling:
- that they were better involved in decisions about their care;
- they were treated with respect and dignity;
- that they had confidence and trust in other healthcare staff they saw; and,
- that the outpatients department and toilets were ‘very clean’.
There remains room for improvement in key areas around explanations given to patients, such as explaining to patients how long they would have to wait for their appointment to start; what would happen during the treatment; why tests were needed; receiving results of tests; the risks and benefits of any treatment; the purpose of medication and the possible side effects.
Cynthia Bower, Chief Executive, CQC said: “Attending an outpatient clinic can be a stressful and worrying experience for some patients. It is therefore encouraging to see some improvement in basic aspects like being treated with respect and dignity and cleanliness. However, more still needs to be done to ensure that outpatients know what to expect, have tests and treatments explained to them clearly and are properly informed about the potential side effects of any medications they are prescribed.”
“We have pledged to ensure the voices of everyone who uses care services are heard. We have produced reports for all of the trusts covered by the survey to underline the findings, and will continue to push for improvement through our assessment and registration systems.”