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Patient feedback has to reach frontline nurses to improve care

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The NHS’ push for quality must include information on patient experience being fed back to nurses and other frontline staff in a form they can understand and act on, research published by Nursing Times has said.

Improving quality is a key goal of former health minister Lord Darzi’s Next Stage Review of the NHS, published last year.

A paper from the King’s Fund’s Point of Care programme, which aims to improve patients’ experiences of hospital care and help staff provide the best care possible, said that trusts must measure the patient experience in a personal way as well as in terms of hard statistics.

It concluded that the vast range of data now available on the patient experience should be tailored by each trust to help them meet patients’ needs, and that trusts should provide this information to frontline staff.

Jocelyn Cornwell, director of the Point of Care programme, and the paper’s co-author, said that patient experience measurement had so far been instigated from the top down, as in the case of the national patient survey, commissioned by the Care Quality Commission.

‘What we are interested in is the trusts doing it themselves and using the information to improve their services,’ she said.

‘So far, only a small minority of trusts will use the data of patient experience to manage services at a
clinical level,’ she added.

Ms Cornwell warned that many nurses felt that targets and indicators were not relevant to their clinical work, and good leadership was needed to remind staff of their importance.

‘There has not been a huge appetite for doing this in the past, but Darzi has made a difference. It has the potential to be very “engageable”, particularly for nurses, and there is a real opportunity to get staff on board on why measurement of the patient experience is important,’ she said.

Mike Hayward, clinical service manager for emergency care at Mayday trust in Croydon, south London, and RCN adviser for acute and emergency care nursing, said capture and analysis of patient experience data was already widespread and available to senior nurses and nurse managers, who would then have to translate it into action plans.

‘It’s massively important but the government has not resourced the issue adequately. The problem with all these initiatives is time. Staff don’t have the luxury to spend time discussing how this information can be used,’ he said.

‘There needs to be adequate time for nurses to meet regularly, and funding to appoint patient experience champions,’ he added.

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