Major NHS survey finds care standards are improving but medication information is poor

BMJ 2010; 340 doi: (Published 21 May 2010) Cite this as: BMJ 2010;340:c2729
  1. Adrian O’Dowd
  1. 1London

    The NHS is showing marked improvements in cleanliness and in reducing mixed sex accommodation, a survey published this week has found.

    Patients gave a mixed but overwhelmingly positive review of the health service in the Survey of adult inpatients 2009, published by NHS regulator the Care Quality Commission. However, a few problems persisted.

    The survey of NHS hospital inpatients in 162 hospital trusts in England was carried out between September 2009 and January 2010. Views were gathered from 69 000 patients who were discharged from hospital before the end of August 2009.

    Results indicated that improvements have been made in cleanliness and mixed sex accommodation is in decline, but more action is needed to tackle the lack of information about medicines.

    Many of the survey questions related to essential standards of quality and safety that trusts must meet under the new registration system that came into operation on 1 April.

    In 2009, 64% of patients rated their hospital room as “very clean,” up from 60% in 2008 and 56% in 2002. This improvement was reflected in all questions related to infection control.

    The proportion of patients who reported sharing accommodation with the opposite sex fell. For emergency patients, 21% said they initially stayed in mixed sex accommodation, down from 29% in 2008. The proportion of people admitted from waiting lists to mixed sex accommodation also fell, from 10% in 2008 to 8% in 2009.

    Progress in other areas was disappointing, said the commission, which felt there was significant room for improvement in the information given to people about medicines.

    In 2009, 45% of patients said they had not been given enough information about potential side effects of medication—up from 44% in 2008 and 2002.

    A lack of help for patients who had trouble eating was also highlighted as an issue. Almost one in five patients (18%) said they did not get enough help to eat their meals if they needed it—the same as in 2002.

    Overall, 44% of people rated their care as “excellent,” 35% “very good,” 13% “good,” 5% “fair,” and 2% “poor.”

    Cynthia Bower, chief executive of the Care Quality Commission, said: “The survey results have shown year on year improvements in many important aspects of hospital care. But there are also some persistent problems that the NHS is struggling to address.

    “It is unacceptable that almost 50% of patients did not have the potential effects of medicine properly explained to them. I’m also concerned that some people who need help to eat are not getting enough assistance. These are fundamentals of care.”

    Health minister Simon Burns welcomed the improvements and said: “We will be working hard to drive through further improvements. Providers whose survey results show them falling behind should be very clear about the action they need to take.”

    A BMA spokesperson said: “It is very good news that the results from this survey show big improvements in cleanliness and a decrease in mixed sex accommodation.

    “Doctors know that patients are rightly concerned about these issues. All health professionals have been working exceptionally hard to improve hospital environments for patients.”

    Steve Barnett, chief executive of the NHS Confederation, the body that represents NHS organisations, said: “Today’s feedback offers staff an opportunity to focus on how best to continue improving safe, high quality, and effective care.”


    Cite this as: BMJ 2010;340:c2729

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