Liverpool GPs asked to keep things simple when seeking patient feedback

27 Sep 2017

People confident GPs take their comments and concerns seriously.

Yet 3 out of 4 (76%) have never given feedback, most commonly because they don’t know how to.

New online poll* suggests those looking to share views with their doctor prefer comment boxes and text messages to social media.

New research by health and care champion Healthwatch England adds to a growing evidence base that people recognise the pressures the NHS is under and want to help make it better by sharing their feedback.

The key to turning the public’s willingness to provide feedback into useful insight is to keep it simple.

According to polling carried out by YouGov for Healthwatch, 76% of adults in England would be interested in sharing their feedback with GPs to improve services but only 23% said that they had actually provided feedback. The most common reason given was that patients are unsure how to provide comments and raise concerns (37%).

Of those who had provided feedback to their family doctor, the most popular option was the traditional comments box (44%), followed by face-to-face feedback to GP practice reception staff (18%) and to GP themselves (16%).

When those who had never provided feedback were asked which methods would encourage them to do so in future, 30% said they were mostly likely to respond to text or email follow-ups after a consultation, with 28% again opting for a comments box.

Interestingly social media channels such as Twitter and Facebook were the least popular forum, with just 3% of those who had provided feedback choosing to do so via social media, and only 12% of those interested in giving feedback in future saying they would consider using such channels. This would suggest that using confidential channels is another key element of sharing feedback with GPs.

As part of the #ItStartsWithYou campaign, Healthwatch Liverpool is calling on GP practices, as the front line of the health service, to send a strong message to patients that the NHS is open and interested in listening to their views.

Healthwatch Liverpool is also encouraging GPs and other primary care staff to share their own stories - with us and with each other – to tell us how patient feedback has helped them to learn and improve the way they provide care.

How patient feedback has made a difference in Liverpool

In August 2015 under a previous provider, Princes Park Health Centre in Toxteth was rated inadequate by the Care Quality Commission (CQC) and put into Special Measures. The national patient survey asks patients if they would recommend their GP practice to someone new to the area. In July 2016 only 32 % of Princes Park patients who responded said yes.

A new provider (Brownlow Health) took over the practice in April 2016 and set about making improvements and by February 2017 the proportion of patients who said they would recommend the service had risen to 92%. The practice has since been rated by the CQC as good with the practice’s openness to patient feedback and their willingness to work with Healthwatch noted in the CQC report.

Sarah Thwaites, Healthwatch Liverpool Chief Officer said “Patients tend to be very loyal and really don’t like to move GP practices, so when we started regularly getting calls from Princes Park patients looking for an alternative practice we knew that all was not well. The new providers showed from the start that they were willing to listen to concerns and address them.”

Local residents and the Patient Participation Group (PPG) who were active in raising concerns about the quality of the service have welcomed the improvements.

Stuart Speedon, a member of the PPG at Princes Park said “There has been a real change for the better at Princes Park. The new management have really listened and have reacted positively to patient suggestions. A strong Patient Participation Group has been important in the development of the relationship with the new management. Overall the service has much improved.“

Sarah added “on the rare occasions that we now hear a patient concern we have confidence that the practice will listen and respond in a helpful way”

Dr Deb Faint, Practice Lead at Princes Park said “Helping patients take control of their health means providing a patient-centred approach not a practice-centred approach. The cornerstone of that is listening in and out of the consulting room.”

Sarah added “we’re encouraging patients to speak up about the care that they received – both where things go well and where it could be improved, and GPs to welcome this feedback. The example of Princes Park Health Centre shows how dramatically services can be improved when staff and patients work together”

Imelda Redmond, National Director of Healthwatch England, said:

“Up and down the country it is clear that people value their local doctors’ surgeries and can see the pressure they are under. It is also clear they want to do their bit to help by sharing their experiences.

“People tell us they want providing feedback to be simple, clear and confidential.  Healthwatch is here to help busy surgeries not only improve how they seek feedback but also help GPs and practices managers explain how this insight is being used to give people the care they want.”

Dr Richard Vautrey, BMA GP committee chair, said: "GPs value the daily feedback they receive from their patients in consultations and comments provided in the surgery. They always want to do the best for their patients and work in partnership with them, welcoming comments from patients about what is working well in the practice as well as good ideas about how services could improve. We particularly value the support of patients in working with us to highlight the impact of years of restricted funding on general practice and the wider NHS.

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