Increase in ‘very good’ overall experience of urgent care

A new survey from the Care Quality Commission has found that more people are reporting a ‘very good’ overall experience of urgent and emergency care, but access to emotional support needs to improve.

The survey reveals the responses from patients who attended either a major consultant-led A&E department (Type 1) or an urgent treatment centre or minor injury unit (Type 3) run directly by one of 126 acute hospital trusts in England during September 2020.

The majority of those surveyed were positive about many aspects of their care and treatment. A third of people (33 per cent) who had attended a Type 1 department and 44 per cent of people who had visited a Type 3 department said their overall experience was ‘very good’ rating it ten out of ten – an increase from 29 per cent of Type 1 respondents and 37 per cent of Type 3 respondents who gave the top score in 2018, when the survey was last carried out.

Additionally, 77 per cent of patients who were treated in a Type 1 department said they ‘definitely’ had confidence and trust in the staff examining and treating them, and 81 per cent felt they were treated with respect and dignity ‘all of the time’ while in A&E (both increases on 2018).

Across the survey as a whole, the biggest positive change was in people’s perceptions of cleanliness. Just under seven in ten Type 1 patients said the A&E department was ‘very clean’ compared to 58 per cent who said this in 2018. And for Type 3 services, 78 per cent said the same about the cleanliness of the urgent treatment centre or minor injury unit where they were treated (up from 67 per cent in 2018).

The survey also unveiled that there was a decline in the number of people who said if they had any anxieties or fears about their condition or treatment, a doctor or nurse in the A&E department ‘completely’ discussed this with them – falling from 57 per cent in 2018 to 51 per cent in 2020.

The results also showed scope for improvements at discharge from A&E. Four in 10 Type 1 patients said they were not given enough information about medication side effects, and just six in ten said that staff ‘definitely’ gave them enough information to help care for their condition at home.

Ted Baker, CQC’s Chief Inspector of Hospitals, said: “This year’s survey shows some encouraging improvements with trust and confidence in clinicians, perceptions of cleanliness and overall experience all performing better than in previous years. This is a testament to the efforts of healthcare professionals working tirelessly to provide high quality urgent and emergency care in the context of increasing pressures and the added challenges brought by the Covid pandemic. However, the scope for further improvement remains. Access to emotional support, help with pain relief and information provided at discharge were all areas where some people surveyed were less positive. This is feedback that hospital trusts can use to help inform action at a local level that ensures all patients have a consistently positive experience.

“It is important to note that this survey was conducted last year, at a time when concerns about Covid saw a significant reduction in patients seeking urgent and emergency care, with Type 3 attendances – the service where people were most likely to report their experience as being ‘very good’ - down 28 per centnt increase in demand impacting on both patients and staff. We are now seeing record levels of attendances at emergency departments and this is affecting patients’ experience of care and creating pressure on staff that cannot be sustained long term.”

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