The results of the latest annual survey of hospital inpatients published by the Care Quality Commission (CQC) show patient satisfaction levels have remained largely static since 2021, but indicate a longer term decline in most areas compared to previous years. They also highlight growing frustration with waiting times and reveal that four in ten people scheduled for planned treatment said their health deteriorated while waiting to be admitted.
In 2022, over a third of respondents who were in hospital for elective care (39%) said they would have like to have been admitted sooner (compared to 35% who said this in 2021 and 32% in 2020) and around four in 10 (41%) said their health deteriorated while waiting to be admitted, with 24% saying it got ‘a bit worse’ and 17% said their health got ‘much worse’ respectively.
A significantly higher proportion of people felt they waited longer to access a bed on a ward after arriving in hospital in 2022 when compared to both 2021 and 2020. Those that said they ‘had to wait far too long’ increased to 18% in 2022 (compared to 15% in 2021 and 8% in 2020), while those that said they ‘had to wait a bit too long’ increased to 16% (compared with 15% in 2021 and 12% in 2020).
The majority of respondents were still positive about their interactions with doctors and nurses. Most people surveyed (81%) said they ‘always’ had confidence and trust in doctors treating them (unchanged from 2021) and more than four fifths (82%) felt they were ‘always’ treated with dignity and respect (unchanged from 2021).
Furthermore, responses to questions 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. Seventy per cent of respondents reported ‘always’ getting help to wash or keep themselves clean (unchanged from 2021, but still 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% who said this in 2021).
Most respondents felt they were given ‘the right amount’ of information about their condition or treatment (77%) unchanged from 2021, though lower compared with 80% in 2020.
When asked to rate their overall inpatient experience, the proportion of people who gave a score of nine or higher out of ten declined to 50% in 2022 down from 52% in 2021 and 56% in 2020. The latest survey results also highlight a deterioration in relation to waiting times, staffing levels, and access to previously prescribed medications while on a ward.
Just over half of survey respondents (52%) felt there were ‘always’ enough nurses on duty to care for them in hospital - compared to 55% in 2021, and 62% in 2020. And almost two in three (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).
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.
“The NHS is struggling with a large elective care backlog, and these survey results reflect the impact of that backlog on people who need treatment, with an increasing number reporting that they waited too long to be admitted and four in ten saying their health deteriorated while waiting for planned treatment. The results also indicate growing public awareness of the difficulties staff face in meeting demand due to workforce shortages.
“We know that Trusts are doing all they can to see patients as quickly as possible and to manage the flow of patients from admission through to discharge to maximise capacity. But as pressures continue to mount, ensuring the best possible experience throughout the entirety of the patient journey is a task that needs input from all parts of the health and care system. It also needs to be supported by the effective delivery of measures set out in the recently published workforce plan to help address staff shortages and harness the skill and commitment we have on the frontline going forward.”