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What does patient feedback reveal about the NHS?: a mixed methods study of comments posted to the NHS Choices online service

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal article

Published
<mark>Journal publication date</mark>1/04/2017
<mark>Journal</mark>BMJ Open
Issue number4
Volume7
Number of pages11
<mark>State</mark>Published
<mark>Original language</mark>English

Abstract


Objective To examine the key themes of positive and negative feedback in patients’ online feedback on NHS (National Health Service) services in England and to understand the specific issues within these themes and how they drive positive and negative evaluation.


Design Computer-assisted quantitative and qualitative studies of 228 113 comments (28 971 142 words) of online feedback posted to the NHS Choices website. Comments containing the most frequent positive and negative evaluative words are qualitatively examined to determine the key drivers of positive and negative feedback.


Participants Contributors posting comments about the NHS between March 2013 and September 2015.


Results Overall, NHS services were evaluated positively approximately three times more often than negatively. The four key areas of focus were: treatment, communication, interpersonal skills and system/organisation. Treatment exhibited the highest proportion of positive evaluative comments (87%), followed by communication (77%), interpersonal skills (44%) and, finally, system/organisation (41%). Qualitative analysis revealed that reference to staff interpersonal skills featured prominently, even in comments relating to treatment and system/organisational issues. Positive feedback was elicited in cases of staff being caring, compassionate and knowing patients’’ names, while rudeness, apathy and not listening were frequent drivers of negative feedback.


Conclusions Although technical competence constitutes an undoubtedly fundamental aspect of healthcare provision, staff members were much more likely to be evaluated both positively and negatively according to their interpersonal skills. Therefore, the findings reported in this study highlight the salience of such ‘soft’ skills to patients and emphasise the need for these to be focused upon and developed in staff training programmes, as well as ensuring that decisions around NHS funding do not result in demotivated and rushed staff. The findings also reveal a significant overlap between the four key themes in the ways that care is evaluated by patients.