Hospital patients need more time with doctors


November 26, 2018

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  • Some 40% of people treated in Irish hospitals this year felt they did not have enough time to discuss their care and treatment with a doctor, while a similar number said that they were not properly informed about the potential side-effects of medicines that they needed to take following discharge, a new survey has revealed.

    The 2018 National Patient Experience Survey was carried out in May of this year, with the aim of finding out what is working well in Irish hospitals, and what needs to be improved.

    Over 13,000 people in 40 hospitals nationwide participated. All had to have spent a minimum of 24 hours in a public acute hospital during the month of May. They were asked 61 questions on topics including admission to hospital, care and treatment, hospital food, and discharge processes.

    On the subject of hospital admissions, the average patient rating was 7.9 out of 10, however 69% of participants said they had waited for more than six hours before being admitted to a ward. Just 31% were admitted within the HSE's target waiting time of six hours.

    Some 81% said they were always treated with respect and dignity in the Emergency Department (ED), leaving a sizeable minority (19%) who felt they were not.

    When it came to care on the ward, the average patient rating was 8.3 out of 10. The vast majority of patients (96%) said that the ward or room they were in was very clean or fairly clean, however 27% said that the food they were given was poor or fair.

    When it came to examinations, diagnosis and treatment, the average patient score was 8.2 out of 10. While 85% of patients said they were always given enough privacy when being examined/treated, 40% said they were not always given enough time to discuss their care and treatment with a doctor.

    In the area of hospital discharge or transfer, the average patient score was 6.9 out of 10 and 38% said that they were not adequately informed about the side-effects of medication that they needed to watch out for when they got home.

    "Participant ratings of discharge or transfer in 2018 were significantly more positive than those in 2017. Nevertheless, it remains the lowest-scoring stage of care. It was clear that many patients felt they did not get enough information on how to safely care for themselves when they left hospital.

    "Most patients said that staff explained the purpose of medications they were to take at home, but many said they did not explain potential side-effects to watch out for. Patients who are not sufficiently informed about their condition, their medication regime and how to care for themselves at home are at a higher risk of complications and being re-admitted to hospital," the survey noted.

    When rating their overall experience, 65% of patients said they had a ‘very good' experience, 30% said they had a ‘good' experience, while 16% said they had a ‘fair to poor' experience.

    People whose hospital visit was planned in advance were more likely to report a good hospital experience overall compared to those whose admission was via the ED. Some 18% of ED patients described their experience as poor compared with 10% of non-emergency admissions.

    The highest rated hospitals overall included Ennis General (9.2 out of 10), South Infirmary Victoria University Hospital (9.2), Mallow General (9.1), Roscommon University Hospital (9.1) and the Royal Victoria Eye and Ear Hospital (9.1).

    The lowest rated hospitals overall included University Hospital Limerick (7.8), Wexford General (7.9), University Hospital Waterford (7.9), St Vincent's University Hospital (7.9), St Luke's General Hospital (7.9) and Portiuncula University Hospital (7.9).

    Speaking at the launch of the survey, the Minister for Health, Simon Harris, described it as ‘an important piece of work'.

    "It gives policy makers and those working in the health service an invaluable insight into the experiences of patients in our hospitals. The overwhelming response shows patients want to have their voices heard and it is absolutely essential the health service listens and responds when they tell their stories of care," he commented.

    Also speaking at the launch, director of the survey programme, Rachel Flynn, said that the majority of patients, once admitted to a ward, spoke positively about their care. However, their experiences in the ED were ‘less favourable' and there is room for improvement in the discharge process.

    "The results of the survey indicate that patients want staff to provide them and their families with more information about their treatment, and would like to be involved in decisions about their care and discharge. We must now listen carefully to what patients have said in this survey and work to deliver a more patient-centred approach to healthcare," she noted.

    The full survey findings, including reports for all participating hospitals, can be viewed here.

    Meanwhile, patients and their loved ones can rate their hospital visits on an ongoing basis at


    © Medmedia Publications/ 2018