Hospital care 'falls short'Healthcare Commission raises personal care issues

05 December 2007

patient in bed

Some hospitals are still failing to provide patients with adequate levels of care, according to a major new report.

The Healthcare Commission says that, while patients are positive about hospital services overall, there are concerns about aspects of patient care such as dignity and privacy.

The watchdog adds that a third of the complaints it received about hospitals related to dignity and respect, nutrition and other aspects of basic personal care.

These included patients being left in soiled bedding and clothing, and patients not getting a regular bath or shower. There were also complaints about oral hygiene and inappropriate or inadequate clothing.

 Patient survey

The watchdog’s 2007 State of Healthcare Report surveyed 80,000 inpatients at acute hospital trusts.

It found that that 89%, or 149, of the trusts were ranked ‘satisfactory’ on patient experience, 8% were ‘below average’ and 3% were ‘poor’.

Eleven of those in the latter two groups were rated as ‘below average’ or ‘poor’ for the second year running.

The survey also highlighted concern about specific issues such as help with eating – one in five patients who wanted help eating did not get it.

Impatient for Change

Which? recently launched our Impatient for Change campaign, which received the backing of Prime Minister Gordon Brown.

We aiming to improve all aspects of non-clinical care for hospital in-patients in the NHS such as the quality of hospital food, cleanliness levels and the dignity and respect shown to patients.

Which? health campaigner Clare Corbett said: ‘This report provides further evidence that urgent improvement is needed to improve patients’ experiences in hospital. 

'We are pleased to see that it picks up on Which? research showing that even when patients have concerns about their care, they often say nothing to staff or the hospital because they think it won't make a difference - they just expect it to be like that or assume that raising issues could compromise other aspects of their care. 

'We want hospitals to create a culture in which people can raise concerns and staff act on them. It is pleasing to see the Healthcare Commission supports this view: we hope it will encourage the government and the hospitals to act swiftly.'

Waiting times

The Healthcare Commission also found that the health of the population is improving with significant increases in life expectancy. But there are major disparities around the UK, particularly in poorer areas where there are often fewer GPs.

It found that there had been dramatic improvements in waiting times but there are hidden waits for some services.

The commission also found the NHS often fails to meet the needs of children and young people and there are concerns about other groups requiring specialist care, such as people with mental health problems and with learning difficulties.

'Serious disparity'

And while there have been dramatic improvements in treating cancer, circulatory and respiratory disease, the five-year survival rates for cancer, and mortality rates for respiratory disease, are worse than in other comparable countries.

Millions more are seeing their doctor sooner

Professor Sir Ian Kennedy, Chairman of the Healthcare Commission, said: ‘Cuts in waiting times have been genuinely dramatic and millions more people are seeing their doctor sooner. People are living longer because of improvements in health and in the quality of care. We should acknowledge and celebrate these successes.

‘But we should also be clear that there is still some way to go before everyone gets world-class care. People are getting healthier, but there is serious disparity in both general health and in the care available to the haves and have-nots.’