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Patients speak out

Patients want more information about their medicines, and wish they could see a doctor whenever they needed one says a new report.

Patients want more information about their medicines, and wish they could see a doctor whenever they needed one says a new report.

Independent healthcare charity the Picker Institute pulled together surveys on experiences of NHS care involving nearly a million patients.

The 917,883 patients who responded said they had seen big improvements in some areas, such as waiting times and cancer care, since 1998 in England.

But many wanted more control over their care and better access to GP services. About a third of the respondents said they wanted to be more involved in treatment decisions and want more information about the potential side effects of their medicines.

Hospital patients were becoming increasingly concerned about hospital infections during the time that the 15 national postal surveys were conducted, between 1998 and 2005.

The individual surveys were commissioned by the Department of Health, the Commission for Health Improvement, the Healthcare Commission and the National Audit Office.

Patients in the community wanted to be able to see their GP quickly and during more convenient opening hours.

However, overall, patients were satisfied with the care they received, saying they were treated with dignity and respect.

Professor Angela Coulter, chief executive of the Picker Institute, said: "Levels of satisfaction are high and improving, but these overall ratings mask some key problem areas.

"Many aspects of patients' experience still need urgent attention. This is definitely unfinished business."

She pointed out that 40 per cent of patients in hospital were still not given information about danger signals to look out for and half of mental health patients had not been given a number to call if they needed help out of office hours.

Michael Summers, chairman of The Patients Association, said: "We are of course pleased that waiting times have gone down and that cancer care has improved, but there are still problems we have to recognise.

"There is such a shortage of GPs that often access is very difficult.

"People are worried about out-of-hours cover. People complain to us that they end up going to A&E because there is no GP around. That defeats the object of the exercise."

Dr Mayur Lakhani, chairman of the Royal College of GPs, said: "GP services are amongst the most patient centred and personalised in the NHS. We welcome the call to make the NHS truly patient centred and the RCGP has put patient-centred care at the heart of its general election manifesto to be launched on 19 April 2005.

"GPs want to spend longer with their patients to explain treatment decisions - every minute makes a difference.

"We need health planners to expand the number of GPs and make patient enablement an urgent priority."

2nd September 2008


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