Patient Experience in England

NHS strategies state that an understanding of patient experience is central to development of “person-centred” services.  But a new report from the Patient Experience Library reveals that NHS staff are bombarded by eighteen separate reporting mechanisms on patient experience.  Data arrives in different formats and at different times, and some of it is of questionable quality.

The report, “Patient Experience in England”, cuts through the muddle, explaining how patient experience evidence is gathered and disseminated.  It shows what has been learnt about patient experience in England over the last year.  And importantly, it looks at whether health service providers are acting on the learning.

Good news from the last year includes generally positive experiences for cancer patients, and a sense among hospital inpatients that confidence and trust in clinical staff has gone up.  However, other findings strike a warning note:

  • There are “significant declines” in key areas of person centred care.
  • “Substantial concerns” remain about the quality of care some people using community mental health services receive.
  • In maternity services, some women were left alone at a time that worried them during early labour, and of those who raised concerns, not all felt that their concerns were taken seriously.

“The patient voice is our canary in the coalmine”, said Anthony McQuillan, Director of the Patient Experience Library.  “Findings like these can help with risk management and quality improvement in NHS services.  But it is vital that Trusts and CCGs are able to act on the learning.”

On this score, there are further concerns.  The report lists recent research studies that have shown an “evidence-practice gap”, with Trusts, CCGs and GPs all having difficulty in translating patient experience evidence into better service delivery.

“Part of the problem”, says McQuillan, “is that patient experience leads lack parity with clinicians in terms of their professional development and support.  If they are expected to lead Trusts and CCGs in understanding patient experience, they need better access to the literature.”

The report “Patient Experience in England: 2017 Edition” can be downloaded from the Patient Experience Library’s website: