Hospital environment comes under spotlight in 2014 NHS Inpatient Survey

Improvements needed to infection control, privacy and food, reveals annual poll

Only one Trust measures the total number of extra nights that patients stay in hospital due to infections acquired in the course of their treatment

Patients being treated in mixed-sex hospital accommodation, poor-quality food, and cleanliness issues have been highlighted as areas in need of improvement in the 2014 NHS Inpatient Survey.

Results published this week show that, overall, there is strong support for the NHS and a general staff commitment to providing high-quality care to patients.

Most respondents – 84% - rated their overall experience with a rating of 7 out of 10 or above, while 77% said they were always well looked after by staff, and 81% were treated with dignity and respect.

It is great to see so many patients reporting positive experiences, especially in the areas of trust and confidence in the staff treating them. However, this is not an excuse to become complacent. There are still many who are not receiving the care that they need and indeed deserve

However, the findings reveal a continuing struggle to deliver on some of the key aspects of care that matter most to patients. This includes patients feeling they were not involved in decisions about their care and treatment, clinicians not answering questions in a way patients could understand, and poor information on medication side effects after discharge from hospital.

The patient environment also came under scrutiny.

The survey asked if patients had to share a room or ward with someone of the opposite sex. In 2010 the Government introduced mandatory reporting of incidents where NHS inpatients were treated in mixed-sex accommodation. Any hospitals still placing patients in mixed-sex accommodation face fines of £250 per patient, per day.

But, while the situation has improved drastically, 10% of the respondents in the 2014 survey said they had to share a ward, while 13% said they had to share bath and shower facilities with members of the opposite sex.

Noise was also highlighted, with 39% of the 57,598 respondents disturbed by noise from other patients, and 21% disturbed by noise from staff.

Asked about the cleanliness of the environment, 69% described their ward or room as ‘very clean’, while 28% said it was ‘fairly clean’, and 2% said it was ‘not very clean’. 62% said bathrooms and toilets were ‘very clean’ while 4% said they were ‘not very clean’.

Infection control was again at the forefront when patients were asked about the availability of handwash gels. 95% said they were available for patients and visitors, while 2% said they were available, but empty; and 3% did not see any on the wards.

Perhaps the most-concerning finding in relation to estates and facilities were the ratings for hospital food.

Improvement will only come from individual and organisational-level commitment to considering involvement, communication and co-ordination as an equal priority to clinical outcomes

Only 21% of the 55,659 people questioned rated the standard of food as ‘very good’, while 36% said it was ‘good’, 28% described it as ‘fair’ and 14% said it was poor. 79% said they were always offered a choice of what to eat, 15% were ‘sometimes’ offered a choice, and 6% were never offered alternatives. Just 63% of patients said they were given enough help by staff to ensure they ate the food offered.

Most of the figures for 2014 were almost identical to the year, showing little improvement.

Commenting on the results, Dr Andrew McCulloch, chief executive of the Picker Institute, who developed and co-ordinated the survey, said: “It is great to see so many patients reporting positive experiences, especially in the areas of trust and confidence in the staff treating them. However, this is not an excuse to become complacent. There are still many who are not receiving the care that they need and indeed deserve.

“This change is not the responsibility of policy makers alone. Improvement will only come from individual and organisational-level commitment to considering involvement, communication and co-ordination as an equal priority to clinical outcomes.”

And Professor Edward Baker, deputy chief inspector of hospitals at the CQC, revealed that, despite the overall positive feedback, there is still significant variation between the best and worst-performing trusts.

Click here for full details of the survey.

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