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'First impressions' help improve patient experience

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A toolkit that taps into people’s first impressions of a healthcare setting has been launched by the NHS Institute for Innovation and Improvement to help mental health wards provide a better experience for patients.

The 15 Steps Challenge toolkit has been developed to encourage staff and their organisations to understand how the quality of the care they provide is seen through the eyes of service users.

A version of the toolkit is already available for acute settings and a version for community settings will be available from 15 October.

It helps staff, service users and carers assess their first impressions of a mental health inpatient setting using a series of questions and prompts.

The toolkit was created following feedback from a mother whose daughter was a frequent inpatient on an acute ward. She claimed she could tell what kind of care her daughter was going to receive within “15 steps” of entering a ward.

The institute said: “The 15 Steps Challenge is not an audit or a performance management tool but a framework to better understand the quality of care being delivered and identify areas of improvement.”

It suggested the toolkit could help organisations improve their performance in the government’s new NHS “friends and family” test, which comes into effect in April. The test will see trusts rated on whether patients would recommend a service to their friends or family, based on their treatment.

The toolkit is available free of charge to NHS organisations in England.

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Readers' comments (1)

  • Rick Harris

    Very interesting initiative, and in line with some of the well-publicised work that Atul Gawande has done in the US in this area.

    This kind of approach may be new to healthcare in UK, but it's been a long standing feature in other sectors such as hospitality and retail, where the competitive nature of the industry has made being customer-focussed a more consistent priority.

    I would add that, if the NHS wants to instil confidence in patients, they need to focus on the last impression as much as the first. These 'bookends' of patient experience don't just change attitudes to quality of care. They also impact behaviour too, such as early presentation in primary care, which can improve both patient outcomes and cost-effectiveness.

    I wish this initiative the very best - it deserves success...

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