Case study: NHS Cumbria Langdale Unit

NHS Cumbria is using Patient Opinion to learn from users of its Step-up Step-down Units. Graeme Nicholson explains.

View the pdf version

What is your role at NHS Cumbria?

I am Matron for Medical Services at Westmorland General Hospital.

Give us an example of how you are using Patient Opinion

We use Patient Opinion as a mechanism for patients to provide feedback about their experience and for services to then feedback to patients.

Why have you decided to do this?

To encourage patient involvement / engagement, to develop and improve services and to ensure a patient focus.

What is involved in making this happen?

Patients are given a discharge pack which includes a letter form the Medical Director inviting them to feed back about their experience. We provide enough information to support online or postal feedback, or through ‘comment boxes’ on the wards.

Is it a lot of work?

No.

How do you promote Patient Opinion to your service users and carers?

We use ward signage, discharge packs and discharge process (patients are gently encouraged to use the Patient Opinion service on discharge) and comment boxes.

How do you involve frontline staff and others in your organisation?

All the usual communication systems (email, meetings, poster display, posting details displayed to all staff).

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

Yes, a positive impact. The vast majority (over 90%) of our postings are positive, and most are very positive. This gives us a great opportunity to highlight to staff what good work they do, and is very useful to use as a measure when responding to complaints.

It is also helpful to balance the negative effect of complaints on morale. We get far more positive feedback than we get complaints – but without Patient Opinion, staff wouldn’t see this.

Has there been an impact for service users and carers?

Yes again. Positive change has come about as a result of some of the critical postings. For example, we have thought hard about ‘noise at night’ issues when planning refurbishment of a ward.

Have you had any really critical postings?

No. We’ve had a small number of postings that have been generally positive but have included some critical comments (and receiving criticism in this way is much more pleasant). And we’ve had perhaps one or two postings than have been purely critical, for example about lack of information or the poor attitude of a nurse.

How have you handled those?

By thanking people initially for taking the time to feed back their concerns, apologising for the poor experience, and then explaining what we will do to help resolve the issue. In some cases I would invite people to contact me directly to discuss things further.

And what have you learnt?

That patients are generally much more grateful for the services they receive than perhaps we realise; that we do things well most of the time; and that getting in early when things aren’t going so well and being straight with people usually avoids negative issues becoming big complaints.