Both NHS staff and patients express a desire for patients’ feedback about their care experiences to be heard and acted upon and the NHS has clear policies to encourage this. But listening to feedback and taking action in response to this can be complicated and challenging. A new NIHR Themed Review brings together research on patients’ feedback and provides an overview of the findings of current NIHR funded research aiming to influence debate, policy and practice on the use of patient experience data.
While most of the nine studies looked at by this Themed Review focus on secondary or tertiary care, a programme of research carried out in primary care funded by an NIHR programme grant is included. This programme was led by Dr Jenni Burt and Prof Martin Roland, in collaboration with Prof John Campbell at the University of Exeter. It explores how people using primary care services provide feedback through patient surveys and how the staff in GP practices used the findings.
Using surveys, focus groups and interviews, the researchers demonstrated that primary care patients can effectively critique their care in interviews but are reluctant to be critical when completing questionnaires. General practice and out-of-hours centre staff were sceptical about the value of patient surveys and their ability to support service reconfiguration and quality improvement. Staff expressed a preference for free-text comments, as these provided more tangible, actionable data.
The study included a focus on the experiences and feedback given by people from South Asian backgrounds, who were more likely to give low survey scores. They were also more likely to be registered with poorly performing practices. The authors used simulated consultations to enable comparisons of care experiences and suggest that low patient experience scores from South Asian communities reflect care that is worse than that experienced by their white British counterparts, even within the same practices.
Burt J, Campbell J, Abel G, Aboulghate A, Ahmed F, Asprey A, et al. ‘Improving patient experience in primary care: a multimethod programme of research on the measurement and improvement of patient experience‘. Programme Grants Appl Res 2017;5(9).
NIHR Themed Review: Improving care by using patient feedback. Published January 2020