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CQC Patient Survey Shows Growing Concern Over Waiting Lists

NHS hospital patient satisfaction levels remain positive overall, though longer waiting times and understaffing are a growing concern, according to the latest annual inpatient survey by the health and care regulator.

The 2022 adult inpatient survey results, published by the Care Quality Commission (CQC), show patient satisfaction levels remained largely positive overall at 69% (71% in 2021), but show a longer-term decline in most areas compared with previous years. 

The survey captured the views and experience of 63,224 people who stayed in one of 133 acute and specialist NHS trusts in England during November last year. The survey has been running since 2002, with 2022 results published on both national and local level.

Longer Waiting Times

The findings highlighted growing frustration with long NHS waiting times, with many people saying their health deteriorated while waiting to be admitted for scheduled inpatient treatment.

In 2022, over a third of respondents (39%) who were in hospital for elective care said they would have like to have been admitted sooner (compared with 35% in 2021 and 32% in 2020).

Just over 4 in 10 (41%) people reported that their health deteriorated while waiting to be admitted, with 24% saying it got ‘a bit worse’, and 17% saying that their health got ‘much worse’, respectively.

A significantly higher proportion of people felt they waited far too long to access a bed on a ward after arriving in hospital in 2022 (18%) when compared with both 2021 (15%), and 2020 (8%). 

Positive Findings

The majority of surveyed patients remained positive about their interactions with doctors and nurses. The majority (81%) said they ‘always’ had confidence and trust in doctors treating them (unchanged from 2021), and 82% felt they were ‘always’ treated with dignity and respect (unchanged from 2021). Furthermore, responses about the support provided by staff to meet people’s fundamental needs — most of which saw a significant decline in 2021 — remained generally unchanged in 2022. 

A total 70% of patients reported ‘always’ getting help to wash or keep themselves clean (unchanged from 2021, but down from 75% in 2020), and 75% said they were ‘always’ offered food that met any dietary needs or requirements they had (up from 74% in 2021).

Most respondents felt they were given ‘the right amount’ of information about their condition or treatment (77%) which was unchanged from 2021, though lower compared with 80% in 2020.

Deterioration in Key Areas 

The latest CQC inpatient survey results also highlight a deterioration in relation to staffing levels, access to previously prescribed medications while on a ward, as well as continuing discharge issues.

Just over half of survey respondents (52%) felt there were ‘always’ enough nurses on duty to care for them in hospital, compared with 55% in 2021, and 62% in 2020. And almost two-thirds (62%) said that they were ‘always’ able to get a member of staff to help when they needed attention (down from 63% in 2021 and 67% 2020).

Although most people surveyed (70%) said they were ‘always’ able to take their previously prescribed medication while on a ward, this was down from 72% in 2021 and 75% in 2020. Meanwhile, 13% said they were ‘never’ able to take their medication (in both 2022 and 2021), up from 12% previously (2020).

In common with previous years, people’s experience at discharge also showed scope for improvement. Only 38% of respondents said they were involved ‘a great deal’ in decisions about their discharge (same as in 2021 but down from 40% in 2020), and less than half (45%) said they ‘definitely’ knew what would happen next in their care after leaving hospital (consistent with 2021 but down from 46% in 2020).

Those Mostly Likely to Have Good or Bad Experiences

Responses to the 2022 CQC survey indicated that people admitted for emergency care, those who were considered frail, had dementia, Alzheimer’s or a neurological condition, and younger people (aged 16 to 50) all reported poorer than average experiences. In contrast, older people, elective admissions, and those who stayed in hospital for only one night were generally more positive about their care.

Commenting on the findings, Dr Sean O’Kelly, chief inspector of healthcare said: “Despite the pressures facing the NHS, the majority of people surveyed continue to report positively about their interactions with hospital staff. That feedback is a testament to the efforts of frontline healthcare professionals working tirelessly to provide high quality care to those that need it.

“However, the lack of improvements in areas such as discharge arrangements and in people feeling like they were given enough information is disappointing and highlights the need for us to do more. I would like NHS trusts to reflect on their individual survey results to help them pinpoint what changes are within their power to make to drive further improvement.”

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