Taking care of your experience

A lot of things matter to patients and carers.

Indeed, your experience of care is affected by the sum total of everything that happens to you, from making an appointment to receiving the right aftercare. But some things matter more than others.

Today marks the launch of a new agreement across national health and care organisations in England about the focus we will bring in our respective roles to improving experiences of care.

This new focus will be on the Warwick Framework, an evidence-based account of what matters most to people about their experiences of care, which informed the development of the NICE Guideline and Quality Standard for patient experience.

This means that patients and carers should expect to:

  • Be involved as an active partner in my care
  • Be treated as an individual – my needs, values and preferences are respected
  • Be recognised as the expert on me
  • Be able to access services when I need them, with my care coordinated
  • Be asked about my communication preferences so that communication is tailored to me
  • Have access to the information I need, which is presented in a way that is right for me
  • Have access to the support I need and is right for me, including emotional and practical support, and I am able to involve my loved ones in decisions about me
  • Be treated in an environment that is clean and comfortable and makes me feel dignified.

This approach puts a strong emphasis on what are sometimes called the relational aspects of care; in other words the human interactions between staff, patients and carers which underpin personalised, responsive and compassionate care.

It builds on what we are already learning from the Friends and Family Test and other forms of real-time feedback. Although failings in administrative systems clearly bother patients and disrupt efficient care, failings in systems are usually forgivable, patients told us, while failings in human contact can be unforgettable.

Compassion is the quality patients and carers value most of all. When care is compassionate, outcomes are better. When compassion is missing, experience can go tragically wrong.

The NHS Forward View has recognised the extent to which changing expectations need to drive changes in the way we deliver care. Clinical Commissioning Groups have set their levels of ambition for improving experiences of care as part of their strategic plans, and have the opportunity to extend these to children and young people once the first national data is published in May 2015.

So although we recognise the importance of all aspects of care experience, we want to focus particularly on the quality of the human dimension of care.

We have sought out relevant examples where providers and commissioners have listened to patients and carers and worked to improve patient experience. Quality improvement is an active science and our aim is to find ways of improving care and spreading what works.

Today’s publication from the National Quality Board therefore comes with tried and tested approaches to quality improvement, case studies and links to useful evidence, tools and resources. The publication is an interactive document. If you just want to view our common purpose in the NHS, you can. If you want to know more, you can drill down in your areas of interest. We will share more examples of good practice over time.

Today is an important step when the national organisations agree to mean the same things and speak with one voice when we talk of good care experiences. We know there is more to do to ensure there is a clear and consistent spotlight on these aspects of experience and we will work together carefully to maintain the foundations and create the right alignment and climate to support staff in consistently delivering caring, responsive, person-centred services.

We recognise the importance of staff experience too, as the best predictor of good patient experience is good staff experience.

Today marks a milestone in an ongoing commitment to work with common purpose to help staff deliver consistently good experiences of care for all patients and carers, today and tomorrow.

Dr Neil Churchill

Neil is Director for People and Communities at NHS England, having joined the NHS after a 25-year career in the voluntary sector. His work includes understanding people’s experiences of the NHS, involving people and communities in decision-making and leading change to improve the quality and equality of care. He has a particular focus on strengthening partnerships with unpaid carers, volunteers and the voluntary sector.

Neil has previously been a non-executive director for the NHS in the South of England, is a member of the Strategy Board for the Beryl Institute and Chair of Care for the Carers in East Sussex. He is himself an unpaid carer. Neil tweets as @neilgchurchill