Northumbria blog imageThe GMC is currently consulting on how patient feedback for doctors could be improved. Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust has an innovative example of how patient feedback can be gathered and reflected upon in a way that benefits both staff and patients.

Here, Annie Laverty, the trust’s Director of Patient Experience explains how their patient feedback system works and the results it’s bringing.

The trust’s backdrop

We provide health and social care across Northumberland and North Tyneside, Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust making us the largest area health trust in England. We also encompass three general and seven community hospitals and employ over 10,000 staff.

With thousands using our services daily, including 500 through A&E, 500 admitted to hospital and 500 attending outpatient clinics – receiving low patient experience scores was a problem for us. This was exasperated by the lack of an effective, integrated system for obtaining and responding to feedback from our patients.

In 2010, we launched a new system that overhauled how patient feedback is collected, analysed and used. The new system focuses on what matters most to patients, covering:

  • consistency and coordination of care
  • treatment with respect and dignity
  • involvement
  • doctors
  • nurses
  • cleanliness
  • pain control[i].

Results from this feedback have been instrumental in directing service goals and improvements across our trust.

How it works

Two different patient feedback processes run across the trust throughout the year.

The first collects ‘real-time’ feedback via face-to-face interviews with 700 patients per month. These results are fed back to our inhouse team (separate from healthcare professionals) within 48 hours.

We’ve worked hard to develop this system to enable patients who require adjustments to take part, including those with dementia, mental ill-health and disability.

The second sees an external survey company collect ‘right-time’ feedback from 500 inpatients, 500 outpatients and 500 A&E patients monthly. This data is collected two weeks after a patients’ care when research shows patient satisfaction is at its lowest.

Benefits for doctors

  • Patient feedback results are shared with doctors through a thorough reporting system, which is discussed at appraisal.
  • There’s no additional burden of collection and collation because the trust supports doctors to access regular, meaningful patient feedback.
  • It provides rich qualitative feedback; which doctors are likely to find most useful.
  • Reporting is real time, so results remain relevant.
  • Low level concerns are identified and responded to as they arise in a timely way.
  • Results can be compared year-on-year and against other doctors in the same specialty.
  • With no ‘shame or blame’ culture results are published openly with the top 20 doctors celebrated each month.

Why it works

The timing of patient interviews is central to this approach with results being reported back to staff within 48 hours of capture. Plus, as there is no self-selection of patients – the results are viewed as meaningful, transparent and are trusted by both our staff and patients.

This patient feedback system is fully embedded across the whole organisation – it is not overly-complicated, and the metrics are easy to understand. It also has the full backing of our Chief Executive Officer and Medical Director and is viewed as an investment in improvement rather than a measurement.

Results

Patients now view providing feedback as an integral part of their care. Our centralised approach means patients no longer receive multiple requests for feedback from different areas. Staff feel they have ownership over the patient feedback process and are very involved in using the results to improve care in their areas.

Independent research shows that as of March this year, we scored 85% public satisfaction for our services – up 4% since 2016 – compared to a national score of 53%.

We are consistently ranked in the top 20 trusts in the Care Quality Commission’s national inpatient surveys, and the only large trust placed in the top 10. We were also named ‘overall trust of the year’ by the Patient Experience Network and won the Patient Experience Award in the CHKS Top Hospitals Awards in 2018.

Our patient feedback model is now being shared with other trusts across the country through the Patient Experience Collaborative and they, as a result, are also observing statistical improvements in patient satisfaction.

Please get involved in the GMC’s consultation on patient feedback if you are a doctor or a patient.

[i] The Picker Institute, 2009