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Cover of Organisational strategies and practices to improve care using patient experience data in acute NHS hospital trusts: an ethnographic study

Organisational strategies and practices to improve care using patient experience data in acute NHS hospital trusts: an ethnographic study

Health Services and Delivery Research, No. 7.34

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Author Information
Southampton (UK): NIHR Journals Library; .


This study identified five key themes that helped explain how patient experience data work could lead to quality improvements in acute hospital trusts.



Although NHS organisations have access to a wealth of patient experience data in various formats (e.g. surveys, complaints and compliments, patient stories and online feedback), not enough attention has been paid to understanding how patient experience data translate into improvements in the quality of care.


The main aim was to explore and enhance the organisational strategies and practices through which patient experience data are collected, interpreted and translated into quality improvements in acute NHS hospital trusts in England. The secondary aim was to understand and optimise the involvement and responsibilities of nurses in senior managerial and front-line roles with respect to such data.


The study comprised two phases. Phase 1 consisted of an actor–network theory-informed ethnographic study of the ‘journeys’ of patient experience data in five acute NHS hospital trusts, particularly in cancer and dementia services. Phase 2 comprised a series of Joint Interpretive Forums (one cross-site and one at each trust) bringing together different stakeholders (e.g. members of staff, national policy-makers, patient/carer representatives) to distil generalisable principles to optimise the use of patient experience data.


Five purposively sampled acute NHS hospital trusts in England.


The analysis points to five key themes: (1) each type of data takes multiple forms and can generate improvements in care at different stages in its complex ‘journey’ through an organisation; (2) where patient experience data participate in interactions (with human and/or non-human actors) characterised by the qualities of autonomy (to act/trigger action), authority (to ensure that action is seen as legitimate) and contextualisation (to act meaningfully in a given situation), quality improvements can take place in response to the data; (3) nurses largely have ultimate responsibility for the way in which data are collected, interpreted and used to improve care, but other professionals also have important roles that could be explored further; (4) formalised quality improvement can confer authority to patient experience data work, but the data also lead to action for improvement in ways that are not formally identified as quality improvement; (5) sense-making exercises with study participants can support organisational learning.


Patient experience data practices at trusts performing ‘worse than others’ on the Care Quality Commission scores were not examined. Although attention was paid to the views of patients and carers, the study focused largely on organisational processes and practices. Finally, the processes and practices around other types of data were not examined, such as patient safety and clinical outcomes data, or how these interact with patient experience data.


NHS organisations may find it useful to identify the local roles and processes that bring about autonomy, authority and contextualisation in patient experience data work. The composition and expertise of patient experience teams could better complement the largely invisible nursing work that currently accounts for a large part of the translation of data into care improvements.

Future work:

To date, future work has not been planned.

Study registration:

NIHR 188882.


The National Institute for Health Research Health Services and Delivery Research programme.


About the Series

Health Services and Delivery Research
ISSN (Print): 2050-4349
ISSN (Electronic): 2050-4357

Article history

The research reported in this issue of the journal was funded by the HS&DR programme or one of its preceding programmes as project number 14/156/08. The contractual start date was in February 2016. The final report began editorial review in June 2018 and was accepted for publication in February 2019. The authors have been wholly responsible for all data collection, analysis and interpretation, and for writing up their work. The HS&DR editors and production house have tried to ensure the accuracy of the authors’ report and would like to thank the reviewers for their constructive comments on the final report document. However, they do not accept liability for damages or losses arising from material published in this report.

Declared competing interests of authors


Last reviewed: June 2018; Accepted: February 2019.

Copyright © Queen’s Printer and Controller of HMSO 2019. This work was produced by Donetto et al. under the terms of a commissioning contract issued by the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care. This issue may be freely reproduced for the purposes of private research and study and extracts (or indeed, the full report) may be included in professional journals provided that suitable acknowledgement is made and the reproduction is not associated with any form of advertising. Applications for commercial reproduction should be addressed to: NIHR Journals Library, National Institute for Health Research, Evaluation, Trials and Studies Coordinating Centre, Alpha House, University of Southampton Science Park, Southampton SO16 7NS, UK.
Bookshelf ID: NBK547213PMID: 31577400DOI: 10.3310/hsdr07340


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