Report Methodology

Aim of the analysis

The analysis aimed to highlight the top issues that patients and carers perceive to be a problem within the NHS. The research produced a table of the most common complaints, taken from a sample of patients' comments on Patient Opinion website since its launch in 2006.

The sample included comments on GP clinics, acute hospitals, mental health trusts and outpatient services and clinics.

The subjective nature of patients' accounts means the report can only measure patient perceptions, and should not be stated as fact. Therefore all conclusions drawn should focus on the areas where patients and carers perceive a need for the NHS to improve.

Selecting the sample

The analysis used a sample of 537 accounts from patients and carers.

The analysed data was sampled by initially collating:

  • All public postings made on Patient Opinion since February 2008 that had a criticality score of three, four or five.
  • All concerns received prior to February 2008 that were over 500 characters in length, to give the fullest example of patient feedback in this period.

This gave us 1,790 accounts, of which 30 per cent were randomly selected, creating a final sample total of 537 accounts. These contain a wide variety of geographic locations and NHS services.

Analysing the sample

The 537 accounts were sorted into 16 categories and labelled using the language commonly used by patients. Definitions of these categories, along with examples, can be found on pages 16 and 17.

The research team counted multiple concerns within a single comment if the patient highlighted a perceived problem with more than one issue or topic during their experience. From the 537 accounts, 1,298 concerns were counted, creating an average of 2.4 concerns per patient comment.

Particular care was taken to not infer problems or draw assumptions from the data and comments. A category was only noted if the patient explicitly mentioned a concern.

The analysis presented the total number of postings per category as actual numbers and percentages.

NB: Criticality scoring is a rating mechanism used to score patients' comments on their severity, with one being the mildest concern and five the greatest. This scoring system has been used by Patient Opinion's research team since February 2008.