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Scientists at the Health Services Research Unit (HSRU), Nuffield Department of Population Health, and Picker Institute Europe, have won a £305,000 grant to help improve the experience of people being treated in hospital wards and A&E departments.

Two young women talking.

The work has been commissioned by the National Institute for Health Research, as part of their Health Services and Delivery Research Programme, and will focus on the care of the elderly.

The team will develop near real-time questionnaires which catch people just prior to discharge. Researchers hope that hospital volunteers may be able to help in the process, which may encourage more people to participate.

Researchers are particularly interested in the ’relational aspects of care’ received by patients, i.e. that which relates to the interaction between staff and patients, such as good communication and emotional support and being treated with compassion and dignity.

The research will provide much-needed evidence about how the NHS ensures that the patient voice is heard and used to improve the personal side of care, explained Professor Crispin Jenkinson who is leading the project at the HSRU.

“We know a lot of data are collected by hospitals, but we need to find out how they are used and whether it makes a difference,” he said. The researchers will investigate if near real-time patient feedback can be a useful tool in assist NHS acute trusts to understand and improve patient experience.

A good hospital experience can have extended benefits for patients. “A good experience of health care may influence people later, such as taking medication and paying attention to their own healthcare needs,” said Professor Jenkinson.

The survey will need to be easy to understand, and simple to explain, and will ask questions about areas that are amenable to change and meaningful to patients and clinicians.

The project is led by the Picker Institute, an Oxford based charity specialising in the measurement, understanding, and improvement of people’s experiences of healthcare.  Commenting on the research, Chris Graham, Director of Research & Policy at the Picker Institute said: “We’re delighted to be working with colleagues at Oxford on this important and timely study.  Patients views are extensively measured in hospitals through a range of initiatives, but this work will provide a unique perspective on whether and how such collections can improve the quality of interpersonal care.”

The work is already underway and will report its findings in 2 1/2 years.

This project was funded by the National Institute for Health Research Health Services and Delivery Research Programme (project number 13/07/39). The views and opinions expressed therein are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect those of the HS&DR Programme, NIHR, NHS or the Department of Health.

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