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Notes from the field of public involvement

Monday, 06 March 2006

Patient feelings - Key to service satisfaction in the NHS

Diagram: Feelings during the patient journey -> Feelings resulting from patient experience

Extract from the Department of Health 'Now I feel tall - what a patient-led NHS feels like':
The findings were quite clear - the quality of a patient's emotional experience was a majorfactor in their overall satisfaction with the NHS. Building on the Best, the report on the Choice consultation, included a 'patient experience definition' that covered the main parts of a goodpatient experience, as defined by the people involved in the research. (For the full OLR report, e-mail enquiries@opinionleader.co.uk)

The patient experience definition
"We want an NHS that meets not only our physical needs but our emotional ones too. This means:

  • getting good treatment in a comfortable, caring and safe environment, delivered in a calmand reassuring way (see the examples in part 3, from Dorset County Hospital, Royal Brompton Hospital andWest Dorset General Hospitals NHS Trust);
  • having information to make choices, to feel confident and to feel in control (see the examples from Greater Manchester and Cheshire Cardiac Network, North and EastCornwall Primary Care Trust , Royal Berkshire Hospital, Royal Brompton and Harefield NHSTrust and South East London Cancer Network);
  • being talked to and listened to as an equal (see the examples from Central Manchester and Manchester Children’s Hospitals, Dorsetand Somerset Coronary Heart Disease Collaborative, The Modernisation Agency, PALS andManchester People First, South Manchester University Hospitals and St James’s Hospital,Leeds); and
  • being treated with honesty, respect and dignity’(see the examples from East Devon Primary Care Trust, East Sussex Hospitals NHS Trust,Ellesmere Port and Neston Primary Care Trust, and Halton Primary Care Trust, Newcastle,North Tyneside and Northumberland Mental Health NHS Trust and York Hospitals NHSTrust)."

We have reproduced this extract from the Department of Health 'Now I feel tall - what a patient-led NHS feels like' to back up the message of two of our recent articles on our mooreadamsoncraig.co.uk web site. Our report 'My Anger Propelled Me' treats the feelings of those who have had a complaint – an area for which the DoH report provides no best practice scenario. Our latest article 'Emotions in Decision-Making - Hindrance or Help?' looks at how managers can look beyond the emotions and find solutions.

We welcome campaigns which - quite correctly - seek to get people in organisations to recognise the emotional messages which resonate so strongly for users. They are tricky things to get right. A lot depends on getting those within the organisation to endorse and act on this focus. Too often their responses to these messages are very poor.

Why? Because the first feeling amongst staff is "What about MY feelings?" Unless they are shown empathy themselves, they are not ready to offer to others. "Why are these patients being mollycoddled and made a fuss over when nobody cares about me?".

Modern service management acknowledges the truth that organisations cannot treat customers well if they do not treat their staff well. Just call a customer contact centre and if you get through, you will see what we mean. Do NHS staff feel themselves well treated? We speak to many who see themselves as powerless and blown hither and thither on the endless but otherwise unpredictable winds of change.

Fascinating stuff and if the NHS could manage making that empathic connection between service provider and user, much would change for ever and at no financial cost.

Colin Adamson | Send feedback