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BMJ. 1994 Dec 10;309(6968):1542-6.

National survey of hospital patients.

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Department of General Practice, St Mary's Hospital Medical School, London.



To survey patients' opinions of their experiences in hospital in order to produce data that can help managers and doctors to identify and solve problems.


Random sample of 36 NHS hospitals, stratified by size of hospital (number of beds), area (north, midlands, south east, south west), and type of hospital (teaching or non-teaching, trust or directly managed). From each hospital a random sample of, on average, 143 patients was interviewed at home or the place of discharge two to four weeks after discharge by means of a structured questionnaire about their treatment in hospital.


5150 randomly chosen NHS patients recently discharged from acute hospitals in England. Subjects had been patients on medical and surgical wards apart from paediatric, maternity, psychiatric, and geriatric wards.


Patients' responses to direct questions about preadmission procedures, admission, communication with staff, physical care, tests and operations, help from staff, pain management, and discharge planning. Patients' responses to general questions about their degree of satisfaction in hospitals.


Problems were reported by patients, particularly with regard to communication with staff (56% (2824/5020) had not been given written or printed information); pain management (33% (1042/3162) of those suffering pain were in pain all or most of the time); and discharge planning (70% (3599/5124) had not been told about warning signs and 62% (3177/5119) had not been told when to resume normal activities). Hospitals failed to reach the standards of the Patient's Charter--for example, in explaining the treatment proposed and giving patients the option of not taking part in student training. Answers to questions about patient satisfaction were, however, highly positive but of little use to managers.


This survey has highlighted several problems with treatment in NHS hospitals. Asking patients direct questions about what happened rather than how satisfied they were with treatment can elucidate the problems that exist and so enable them to be solved.

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