Why we need to listen to meaningful patient feedback in emergency departments
Patient experience data in emergency departments (EDs) is notoriously hard to collect. Patients are often rushed into A&E in times of acute need. It can be an overwhelming experience and a blur of lights, noise and people. Often the patient is triaged, diagnosed and has received the first phase of their treatment within 4-hours before being admitted, transferred or discharged. So the question arises: how do we collect meaningful patient feedback within this short, stressful timeframe?
It is because of the lack of patient experience data in emergency departments that I looked forward to reading the Care Quality Commission’s Emergency department survey 2016. Patient experiences should be central to the development of emergency care services. Surveys like this are vital to shed light on what we are doing well, and where we need to improve.
This raises the question: are we listening to the voice of the patient and acting on those messages as much as we should be?
There is a myth that we are going to be able to curb the growing attendance figures at our emergency departments. However, the facts show that the growth is in step with the rising population in the UK. Since 2010/11 attendances in England have increased by 1,031,164 (7.4%) – equivalent to the workload of 10 medium sized departments – and this number is set to rise.
Furthermore, the CQC’s survey showed that patients trust emergency care services. A majority of patients who took part in the survey stated that they had confidence and trust in the doctors and nurses treating them. The data also showed that 76% of patients who had contact with another service prior to visiting the emergency department were referred to the ED.
The power of the ‘A&E brand’ is recognised for what it is – a guarantee of immediate access into a safe environment when faced with a medical emergency.
Shouldn’t we be making sure, then, that there are enough resources at the front door to provide for the patients seeking aid instead of hoping that patients are going to disappear?
This mentality does not stop at the ED doors. We have fewer acute beds relative to population than almost any other comparable health system, and yet we are still seeking to cut our bed base. Fewer beds means an increasing number of 12-hour waits. It also means rows of patients left in the undignified position of waiting on a hospital trolley in a draughty corridor for an appropriate bed to become free. Continuing on this course puts patients at risk.
It is with the patient in mind that the Royal College of Emergency Medicine is calling for more staff to care for patients, an additional 5,000 hospital beds to diminish ED crowding, the co-location of vital services on the ED site and more social care in the community to care for those patients who are able to be at home.
I consider that it is only by listening to the patient, understanding what they want, and adequately resourcing our hospitals and social care services to meet their needs that we will be able to provide the high-quality patient centred care that the public wants and that health care staff aspire to.
The number of patients attending emergency departments is not going to get smaller. Let’s make sure we listen to the feedback, learn and act appropriately.