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Supporting the NHS to Improve Patient Outcomes and Staff Experience

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Kerry Hibberd

Director, Insight & Feedback, Healthcare, IQVIA

Director of Insight and Feedback at IQVIA, Kerry Hibberd writes for Chamber about supporting the NHS to improve patient outcomes and staff experience.
www.iqvia.com

For many of us, the significant disruption of COVID-19 has eased, and daily life has settled into a new normal—with our focus now dominated by other issues, such as the cost-of-living crisis and climate change. Yet, despite two years of unprecedented pressure in healthcare—with rapid change and the need for tremendous resilience—the fight against COVID-19 and its consequences are far from over in the NHS.

With record numbers of people waiting for elective care, growing numbers of patients waiting a year or more for surgery and lengthening waits for admission to A&E, it would be easy to divert attention away from measuring patient and staff experience and outcomes when dealing with such challenging circumstances. However, it is both encouraging and reassuring to see that capturing this essential information remains a high priority for the NHS.

Put simply, we need to understand what is working and where improvements can be made. There are several key initiatives that are aimed at doing just that and that are designed to shine a spotlight on staff and patient experience. IQVIA, a global provider of advanced analytics, technology solutions and clinical research services to the life sciences industry, have been a key player in this.

NHS Staff Survey

The annual NHS Staff Survey is more important than ever to gather the views on what it is like to work in NHS organisations from the over one million NHS workers. With record numbers of highly skilled and qualified staff leaving the NHS to pursue a better work-life balance, it is important that NHS employers have robust and meaningful data-driven insights to understand the key drivers of staff engagement, morale and wellbeing. This will ensure effective and proactive action can be taken to protect and retain this valuable workforce. 

The annual survey is currently running and will provide NHS employers with a critical temperature check of how staff are feeling. It is widely reported that there is a direct link between levels of staff engagement and patient-reported experience and clinical outcomes, so it is clear to see why these metrics remain so important.

Care Quality Commission National Patient Survey

Through the Care Quality Commission (CQC) National Patient Survey programme, the NHS is regularly collecting (and acting on) rich patient experience data that covers mental health community services, inpatient services, maternity services and urgent/emergency care. All of this data helps the NHS to understand what is important to patients in terms of their care provision and it also identifies where improvements can be made.

The latest round of survey results has highlighted several areas of focus including

  • Community Mental Health Survey (2022). The latest overall results show a downward trend in standards, with many people reporting not having had a care review meeting with someone from NHS community mental health services in the last 12 months. The people receiving telephone-based care, and younger people (aged 18–35), are reporting worse than average experiences in key areas of their care.
  • Adult Inpatient Survey (2021) Whilst most patients reported positive interactions with doctors and nurses, these scores have declined and less than half of respondents “definitely” knew what would happen with their care after leaving hospital. A declining proportion of patients said that they could always get help from staff when they needed it.
  • Maternity Survey (2021). Improvements were reported on continuity of care and most women said that, if they needed it, they were given enough support for their mental health during pregnancy. Most women continued to report positive experiences about interactions with staff, although results for experience of postnatal care were poor     compared with other aspects of maternity care.
Policy institute, Curia has supported the NHS Innovation and Life Sciences Commission in 2022

Patient Access

Access to General Practitioners (GP) services is another area of healthcare that has been significantly impacted by the pandemic. In the most recent Scottish Health and Care Experience Survey, published in May, over 130,000 patients registered with a GP practice in Scotland responded. In the survey, patients provided feedback on their experiences during the previous 12 months of accessing and using their GP practice and other local healthcare services—including receiving care, support and help with everyday living and caring responsibilities.

The results showed a decline in several areas, including in overall care provided by the GP practice, care received from an NHS service when the GP practice was closed and ease of contact with the practice. The results reported an increase in the number of people with regular caring responsibilities but a decline in the number of people feeling supported. There was also, unsurprisingly, a reported shift towards more telephone appointments and fewer face-to-face appointments.

Patient and staff experience is not the only measure of quality being captured by the NHS. Quality of life and health outcomes are routinely collected and measured on patients undergoing elective hip and knee surgery and those who suffer major trauma. These insights are delivered through the NHS Patient Reported Outcomes Measures (PROMs) programme and the Trauma Audit Research Network Trauma PROMs programmes. Both are important initiatives to help the NHS understand how a patient’s quality of life and health outcomes are improved by surgery and impacted by major trauma.

Similarly, NHS England’s Cancer Quality of Life programme, which launched in September 2020, tracks and responds to the long-term impact of cancer. In the first data release from the survey, published in October 2021, the findings showed that 18 months after a cancer diagnosis, patients rate their quality of life quite highly. People living with and beyond cancer are significantly more likely to report a problem across all five aspects of health (mobility, self-care, usual activities, pain, discomfort, anxiety, and depression), with marked differences for usual activities, such as work, study, housework, family and leisure activities.

It also reported that cancer patients are one and a half times more likely to report a problem with anxiety and depression than the general population. Some patients continue to experience symptoms and side effects at a level that may benefit from further investigation, including difficulty sleeping, fatigue and constipation. These research programmes provide robust data and insights on the areas that make the most difference to quality of life and they can help shape service provision and policy to ensure that the NHS provides care in the most effective way.

Whilst shining a light on these issues may be uncomfortable, all these research programmes demonstrate a clear and continued commitment to services and improving on areas that are important to staff, patients and service users. With an increasing focus on population health, mental well-being and quality of life, it is crucial that our highly regarded NHS remains focused on listening to the population it serves, alongside the wider challenges brought by the pandemic.

IQVIA is proud to stand by the NHS, supporting health stakeholders to gather and provide insight into these important programmes.

NHS Innovation and Life Sciences Commission

The NHS Innovation and Life Sciences Commission, supported by policy institute Curia published its 2022 report on Monday. To read more about the commission’s work and read the full report visit: https://chamberuk.com/publications/

In 2023, the Commission will be working on a specific workforce inquiry, with a special new commissioner looking at some of the issues outlined in Hibberd’s article. To find out more visit www.curiauk.com or email harry.blacklock@chamberuk.com.

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