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NHS should 'explain more'

Two Healthcare Commission reports reveal that NHS patients still crave more treatment knowledge.

Millions of NHS patients are leaving hospital unaware of the side effects of their new medication according to two patient surveys from the Healthcare Commission.

Less than half of patients discharged from A&E and those attending outpatients departments ñ 49 per cent and 39 per cent, respectively ñ were given any explanation regarding the possible side effects of their new treatment.

While patients felt that they are not getting enough information about the drugs prescribed to them and do not have an adequate say in how they are treated, they were, however, broadly positive about their experience in hospital.

The overall results from the Healthcare Commission's reports into patients' perception of A&E and outpatient departments, reveal a high percentage of respondents have complete confidence and trust in doctors and healthcare professionals. They also reported improvements in both waiting times and cleanliness. However, they still expect further improvements in their health service.

More than 60 per cent of A&E patients said they had enough time to discuss their condition with a doctor or nurse ñ an increase of 4 per cent on 2003 ñ and 51 per cent with fears and anxieties said they felt completely able to discuss their concerns - an increase of 2 per cent on 2003.

However, 11 per cent of respondents said that doctors and nurses had, to some extent, talked in front of them as if they were not there, while 6 per cent stated that this had definitely happened.

Increased access to treatment information has long been a focal point in patient care and while 77 per cent of A&E patients felt they were given enough information about their treatment, compared with 75 per cent in 2003, and 64 per cent said they were as involved as they wanted to be in decisions about their care, the issue remains high on the Healthcare Commission's agenda.

Anna Walker, chief executive of the Healthcare Commission said that the results of the survey were encouraging, highlighting that it was good to "see patients [are] beginning to experience a reduction in waiting times".

ìThere is much to celebrate but patients still, and rightly so, expect further improvement in their health service. Patients are sending a very clear message that they want more involvement in decisions on their treatment and that current standards of cleanliness are still not good enough. That must improve,î she added.

Patients' confidence and trust in doctors and nurses working in A&E remains almost unchanged when compared to 2003: 73 per cent of patients said they had complete confidence, 22 per cent were confident, but only to a point, and 5 per cent had no confidence in the doctors and nurses.

While respondents were quite positive about treatment, communication and their involvement in decisions about their treatment in A&E, they were not as pleased with information they received when discharged. Almost 40 per cent of patients said they were not given any information about danger signals to look out for on returning home while 42 per cent were not advised when they could resume normal activities.

Three-quarters of outpatients thought the doctor explained fully the treatment being proposed, with 69 per cent reporting that they understood the explanation given to them. However, 23 per cent of respondents said they only partially understood the explanation of their test results, while 24 per cent said they were not told how they would find out their test results.

Almost 40 per cent of patients leaving outpatients said they did not receive information from staff about danger signals related to their illness or treatment with 38 per cent stating that they were not given any information about who to contact if they were concerned. Those that did receive adequate information in this regard said it was difficult to access the necessary support services.

30th September 2008

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