As we head into the winter, the NHS is facing pressures across the whole system. Louise Ansari, national director at Healthwatch England, explains why public feedback matters in these challenging times, and how frontline staff can help encourage people to have their say.
Nurses and other healthcare professionals are under intense pressure due to high demand. Even in this context it’s essential that they understand where and how they can improve the services they deliver.
Patient feedback is a vital source of information to help NHS and social care decision makers understand if care is working. It can enable the NHS to spot issues and identify where services may need more resource or other support. It can also help address inequalities in access to care, the extent of which has been laid bare by the pandemic.
So it’s still a crucial part of the job to help more people feel empowered to share their experience, be it good or bad, and raise awareness of how their feedback is helping improve support for them and their community.
Behind every number is a personal story
As we head into the winter, the NHS is facing pressures across the whole system, including managing the backlog in diagnostics and surgery that built up as a result of the pandemic. Amid this, it may be hard to remember that every person waiting for care has their own experiences, struggles, and feelings.
At Healthwatch, we encourage people to speak up and work with the NHS and social care services to make care better.
A few months ago, thanks to people’s feedback, we managed to achieve real change in getting better support for people with Long Covid.
We raised people’s concerns that GPs didn’t understand Long Covid, often dismissing symptoms. As a result, the NHS has improved Long Covid resources for healthcare professionals to help them better diagnose symptoms and provide support.
Additionally, the NHS has invested in a new training programme to increase doctors’ and nurses’ knowledge of the tests, treatments and rehabilitation available for Long Covid.
This example shows that people need to be offered clear and easy ways to share their feedback, and that feedback can create change. However, this is not always the case.
People want to help shape services
Working with the Care Quality Commission, we conducted a poll, which looked at the experience of care among people with chronic and long-term conditions. It revealed that people are not given the opportunity to have their say on the care they receive.
Over three fifths (62%) of the respondents didn’t know how to feed back on NHS and social care services, and over half (54%) hadn’t been asked to feed back in the past 12 months.
The poll also found that people do want to be involved in helping shape services. The top motivations for wanting to provide feedback were:
- improving services in the local community (20%);
- protecting themselves and others from future harm (18%);
- improving the future of their own care or someone they care for (18%).
The more people share their ideas, experiences and concerns about NHS and social care, the more services can understand what works, what doesn’t and what people want from care in the future. People just need to be offered clear and accessible ways to have their say.
You have a role to play
Be it a daily routine or a pandemic, nurses are on the frontline and help people cope with illnesses while providing vital support and advice.
In order to create change, professionals like team leaders need to be able to use the feedback they receive about their service to act and deliver change. Any barriers that are stopping them should be addressed by the leadership.
Because when professionals feel empowered to give empathetic care, it can save services time and money in the future, as well as improving patient satisfaction.
Ultimately, the benefits of listening to and acting on people’s feedback can be felt right across the NHS.
Ways you can help people share their feedback
- Encourage people to share their experience of care to your service directly – it will help identify if care is working and suggest potential solutions that can make a difference for service users.
- Encourage people to share overall feedback about care, both good and bad, with their local Healthwatch. Your local Healthwatch collects evidence on services and has the power to influence policy locally as well as nationwide.
- Direct people to the latest policy insights and advice offered by Healthwatch England via healthwatch.co.uk. We can support people with advice and information on social care assessments and discharge services when leaving the hospital.
Louise Ansari is the national director at Healthwatch England, a health and care champion, which works to ensure NHS leaders and other decision makers listen to people’s feedback and improve standards of care. Last year, the organisation helped nearly a million people to have their say and get the information and advice they need.