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Healthwatch A&E patient experience report welcome, but more research needed

21 February 2020

Responding to Healthwatch England’s report ‘What matters to people using A&E’, Vice President of the Royal College of Emergency Medicine, Dr Adrian Boyle said: “This report is a welcome effort to gauge patient views, but more thorough, independent research is needed to fully understand patients’ experiences and opinions of waiting times, particularly in admitted patients; something Healthwatch acknowledges.

“It is pleasing that patients continue to hold our staff and departments in high esteem, but it is concerning that many patients now seem to accept long waits as part and parcel of their care. The report itself questions ‘whether people are adjusting their expectations based on what they hear about the system being under pressure or performing less well’.

“This suggests that the years of underfunding that has seen a decline in performance has also had an insidious effect on patient expectations; many are now accepting of the unacceptable. The College is very clear that long waits are unacceptable and associated with increased mortality.

“However, the report suggests that while waiting times are important and should not be taken for granted, they are not the only thing that matters to patients in terms of their experience in Emergency Departments (EDs). Attitude of staff, quality of care and communication are all understandably and rightly important.

“While the report indicates that there are some simple actions hospitals can take to improve patient experience, for instance displaying waiting times, it is also clear that further action will be needed from both the wider NHS and government.

“Survey feedback found that patients believe that facilities within EDs are not up to scratch. We know that many of our departments are desperately in need of renovation; the government must, use the budget as an opportunity to boost capital investment and make our EDs fit for the future.

“For the NHS it is clear that any metrics that emerge from the Clinical Review of Standards must help drive improvements in patient experience.

“The best way to do this will be to ensure that transparent measures help drive flow, reduce overcrowding, improve quality and foster a safer environment for our patients and staff. Get these right and patient experience should improve further.

“Any conclusions drawn by the Clinical Review of Standards must be independently evaluated, including assessment of the impacts on patient experience.

“Beyond the CRS, we agree with Healthwatch that a new overall measure of patient experience should be standardised across Trusts and regularly reviewed.”

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