17 October, 2017

News > Patients report mixed experience of Emergency Departments, as attendances soar.

Today (17 October 2017) the Care Quality Commission (CQC) published the results of the Emergency Department Survey 2016; a nation-wide survey of more than 40,000 people who attended emergency and urgent care departments, which sought to understand their experiences.

The results suggest that most patients have a positive experience when it comes to interactions with NHS doctors and nurses, despite a marked increase in the numbers attending NHS Emergency Departments in recent years. The years between 2005/6 and 2015/6 has seen an increase in emergency department attendance of 10%; this equates to over one million additional people attending the departments in 2016 than 2006.

The survey included people who attended one of 137 acute and specialist NHS trusts during September 2016, and is part of the National Patient Survey Programme (NPSP) managed by the Survey Coordination Centre, based at Picker.

Despite the increasing number of attendees to emergency departments, 73% of patients said they definitely had enough time to discuss their condition with a doctor or nurse. In addition, 78% of these reported that their doctors and nurses listened to what they had to say.

CEO of Picker, Chris Graham, said:

“The challenges facing emergency departments are well publicised. More people are attending, increasing the challenge of providing timely, effective care for every patient. Despite this, most patients report positive experiences, which stands as testament to the efforts of NHS staff working in busy departments.”

“But there are mixed results for some areas of person-centred care that are important to patients: for example, only 69% of patients reported that their doctor or nurse explained the nature of their condition and treatment in a way that they could understand.”

Three quarters (75%) of respondents “definitely” had confidence in their doctors and nurses, with a further 18% having confidence in them to a certain degree.

However, the survey highlighted issues that arise when patients leave the facilities; 30% of respondents weren’t given enough information about which danger signs of their condition or treatment to watch out for on returning home; and 37% were not given enough information about what side-effects of their medication they should watch out for.

Furthermore, 45% of respondents stated that their home situation was not taken into account when they left the emergency department, and 34% were not informed as to when they could resume normal activities, such as driving.

Chris Graham responded

“Emergency departments fulfill an important role in healthcare. Firstly, they address the urgent needs of patients who present with a wide range of

conditions, symptoms, and severity of needs. Equally, they have a role in directing patients on to other services for follow-up care and treatment: in some cases this will involve hospital admission, but in others patients may be referred back to GPs or on to other services.”

“The importance of this coordinating role cannot be understated, because it impacts demand and pressure felt throughout the system – including in emergency departments themselves. It is therefore worrying to see poorer results for people’s experiences of discharge from emergency departments. Patients who leave without awareness of potential danger signals to watch for, or understanding what to do if they have problems, are at risk of poorer health outcomes and requiring further unplanned care.”

“Improving people’s experiences of leaving emergency departments should be a priority, particularly as services prepare to face the pressures of another busy winter.”

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