Case study: UCLH gastroenterology

The gastroenterology department at University College London Hospital has been piloting Patient Opinion.

Dr Stuart Bloom and Chris Dann share their experience to date

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What are your roles at UCLH?

Stuart Bloom: I have been a consultant gastroenterologist at UCLH for 13 years and am one of two consultants involved in the inflammatory bowel disease service at UCLH. I was clinical director of the department of gastroenterology from 2001-06.

Chris Dann: I am an assistant general manager within the division, with responsibilities for outpatient, diagnostic and inpatient care in gastroenterology. I have been in the department for around two years.

How are you using Patient Opinion in your department?

SB: We give out the forms to all patients attending the various GI clinics and endoscopy lists at UCLH. We have also recently expanded to the division's inpatient ward.

What is involved in doing this? How much work is it?

SB: Very little or no work for the doctors! Some effort in distributing the paperwork to patients, although this is done routinely when they register in outpatients.

CD: There have been no major obstacles. The division doesn't itself manage many of the front line staff who hand out the feedback leaflets, so it can be slightly tricky to monitor the efficiency. We spend some time responding to postings online, especially if input from another division is required.

How have you involved other staff in the department?

SB: The idea of using Patient Opinion was floated at a consultants meeting. No objections were raised, apart from the obvious one about ensuring staff anonymity in the case of unfavourable feedback.

CD: We discuss positive and negative feedback during clinical governance and ward efficiency meetings that cover the Endoscopy Unit. We also email postings to relevant managers, when appropriate, to circulate to their staff.

Has there been any impact for staff? How have they reacted?

SB: I presented our feedback at a departmental audit day. Of the 30 postings we had, about half were very favourable. The majority of criticism was constructive and highlighted either administrative issues such as endoscopy booking problems, or waiting times in outpatients. Both issues are well known to staff, so the fact they are highlighted by patients as well is welcome.

CD: We have had some very positive feedback from patients, which we have used to help motivate front line staff. Equally, there have been cases where things haven't worked so well for patients, which has enabled us to address issues with the appropriate management in the trust.

Has there been any impact for patients?

SB: No, not yet. But we have thorough action plans to improve areas that have been highlighted via feedback.

Have you had any really critical feedback? If so, how have you handled it?

CD: Due to the fact that you only have certain information, there is only so much investigation that can be done. I always ensure that the point is looked at by the relevant people and then try to explain what the likely cause of the issue was and how we are trying to improve it – very similar to how I would handle a formal complaint. I always apologise for any bad experiences.

What have you learnt from using Patient Opinion?

SB: On the one hand, little that we did not suspect already. On the other hand, that patients want a prompt, well-organised service, delivered by staff who are kind and responsive to their concerns. Obvious really, but the feedback is very much appreciated.

CD: It is interesting to get real time feedback from patients and we have identified areas that need genuine attention, as well as some that are maybe out of our hands – like getting a parking ticket!