Patient satisfaction has fallen within the National Health Service. In the latest wave of the British Social Attitudes survey, public satisfaction with the health service overall fell from 60% to 55% driven by longer waiting times, staff shortages, and funding cuts. In addition, staff morale is an increasing concern; in 2014 a survey conducted by the NHS and the Picker Institute found that only 44% of NHS staff reported that they were satisfied with how their organisation values their work, and only just over one in three (37%) were satisfied with their levels of pay. Ultimately the health service exists to improve health outcomes for the population; however staff satisfaction has a strong influence on health performance and patient outcomes. A Department of Health study in 2014 stated that there was a causal link between health sector staff well-being and performance outcomes. Patients matter, but so do the staff treating them.
All organisations, in the health and social care sector and beyond, large and small organisations, and those delivering frontline or support services, need to understand the views and feelings of their staff, their beneficiaries, and other stakeholders. Understanding stakeholder satisfaction helps organisations to:
- Review and refine their strategic objectives
- Inform sales and marketing strategies
- Deliver user-centred programmes or products
- Attribute outcomes and impacts
- Report to funders and partners
The NHS needs to adapt to an unprecedented set of factors – an ageing population, greater demand for personalised patient care, rapid evolution in digital technology. It has embarked on a new Five Year Forward View, where tighter planning and budgeting is set against ambitious goals for transformation and innovation. Aleron recently interviewed Noel Gordon, Non-Executive Director of NHS England, who shared with us his insights that NHS transformation must be driven through greater collaboration and consultation with partners, staff, and patients; and that research and development must focus on personalised medical solutions to help control and ultimately eradicate diseases.
All organisations can run staff and service user satisfaction consultations at relatively low costs. Even outreach and community services can now ask questions and record answers using mobile technologies. Here are some principles for all organisations in health and social care, and beyond, to effectively collaborate and consult with service users:
- Speak to service users before a service opens to find out what matters to them
- Ask simple questions that can be understood by the users they aim to benefit, and that aren’t invasive
- Ask both closed and open-ended questions in a satisfaction survey
- Use statistical sampling techniques to gather representative feedback, but without overloading each individual service user
- Don’t shy away from opinions; be open to challenges and ideas
- Always tell participants about the aggregate results, ensuring that feedback is disseminated in a timely way, and in formats that the users can engage with
Were you satisfied with the service? Would you recommend the service to a friend or a relative? What would you keep? What would you change? Some simple but powerful questions can help turn all services into user-led services.
Satisfaction with a service or a programme is crucial. It is a key indicator for the health of a service now, and the impact it will have on the service users in the future. However, our experience at Aleron has shown that it is often one of the areas that organisations fail to invest in, or act upon. A healthy service depends on openness and response to user and staff feedback.