The Care Quality Commission (CQC) has reported that urgent and emergency care services are improving in some areas, following a nationwide survey.
The survey was conducted across two types of urgent care, type 1 – classified as those who attended A&E departments – and type 3, which covered services from urgent treatment centres, and only includes services directly run by an acute NHS trust. 41,206 responses were gathered from those who attended a type 1 service, and 7,424 responses were gathered from those who attended a type 3 service, across 126 acute hospital trusts.
Ted Baker, CQC’s Chief Inspector of Hospitals, said: “This year’s survey shows some encouraging improvements with trust and confidence in clinicians, perceptions of cleanliness and overall experience all performing better than in previous years.
“This is a testament to the efforts of healthcare professionals working tirelessly to provide high quality urgent and emergency care in the context of increasing pressures and the added challenges brought by the COVID pandemic. However, the scope for further improvement remains. Access to emotional support, help with pain relief and information provided at discharge were all areas where some people surveyed were less positive. This is feedback that hospital trusts can use to help inform action at a local level that ensures all patients have a consistently positive experience.
“The current challenges faced by NHS hospital services include a significant increase in demand impacting on both patients and staff. We are now seeing record levels of attendances at emergency departments, and this is affecting patients’ experience of care and creating pressure on staff that cannot be sustained long term.
“These pressures can only be tackled by services working together in a truly integrated way. As a priority, urgent and emergency care needs the support of the whole hospital and the surrounding local health and social care system to tackle the wider capacity problem that exists. Innovative solutions must be found that prioritise patient safety at every stage of the pathway. In the longer term the whole model of how we provide urgent and emergency care needs to be revisited.”
The overall results showed some signs of encouragement, as “33% of patients who used type 1 services rated their overall experiences as ‘10’ out of ‘10’, up from 27% in 2016 and 29% in 2018” and “44% of those who used type 3 services rated their overall experiences as ‘10’ out of ‘10’, up from 33% in 2016 and 37% in 2018.”
The biggest improvement across services was in cleanliness and hygiene, as “69% of type 1 patients said the A&E department was ‘very clean’, whilst 78% of type 3 patients said this about the urgent treatment centre”. This marks a significant improvement, as results in previous years were 11 percentage points lower.
Patient privacy also presented positive results, as “84% of type 1 patients said that they were ‘definitely’ given enough privacy when being examined or treated.”
The survey results did highlight some areas of improvement across emergency care, however, as “51% of those who used type 1 services said that if they had any anxieties or fears about their condition or treatment, a doctor or nurse ‘completely’ discussed this with them”. 57% of patients felt the same in 2016 and 2018, a lower score of six percentage points.
Staff availability is also a cause of concern, according to the results from the survey, as “45% of type 1 patients who reported that they needed help said that they were unable to get help with their condition or symptoms from a member of staff.”
As well as national results, the CQC has published the results of each individual NHS trust that took part.
The results from the full survey are available here.