Capital Gains? Not for the NHS

28th February 2014

It’s recognised as having had a huge influence on the rest of the UK and far beyond and its myriad of attractions range from museums to nightclubs, historic palaces to parks and the Thames to the Tower.

Unfortunately however, our capital city hasn’t got much to show for itself when it comes to NHS performance, as our research at Fletchers Solicitors has revealed how far it lags behind the rest of the country in terms of healthcare provision.

Before we go into detail, we need to recognise the unique challenges which exist in London. With a population soaring towards 8.5 million and resource levels which are certainly not going up at the same pace, the city is struggling to cope.

While it’s not just healthcare where the pressure’s on, problems in the NHS could be a matter of life or death and when we asked 2,000 patients about their experience of our health service, they didn’t paint a positive picture when it came to London.

Some of the statistics and differences we uncovered were startling. Almost a quarter of all patients in the capital had complained formally about how they or their family had been treated by the NHS, which was a third more than the average rate of complaints across the whole of the UK.

Londoners also scored the NHS poorly in terms of how satisfied they were with the quality of service they had received, with an average score of 6.43, compared to the UK average of 7.09 and a score of 7.54 for South West England, the best performing area. It’s apparent that London lags seriously behind when it comes to experiences of the NHS in general.

As well as that, we’ve once again found that patients don’t actually complain even when they feel they’ve got cause to. So while the capital leads the way when it comes to the percentage of households which have complained, almost twice as many said they hadn’t done so despite having had reason to voice their concerns. The most common causes of this were an unwillingness to bother under-pressure staff and a fear that their own treatment could be affected if they spoke out.

We recently launched our Listening Project – a year-long campaign to help investigate ways the NHS can improve its ability to listen to patients and therefore learn from its mistakes. It’s apparent that there is work to do to encourage people to talk and that this work needs to happen across the UK.

It’s worrying however to see the results of our survey and the situation that appears to have developed in London in particular. While patients there are prone to complain, they’re also discouraged from doing so by concerns about being troublesome or jeopardising their own treatment.

We need to get people’s voices heard in the capital and the rest of the UK so that we can help the NHS to listen, learn and improve. It’s going to be a difficult journey but it can be done. We’ll be carrying out further research throughout the year with a view to playing our part in the process – please get involved and contribute your views and experiences online, through Facebook and on Twitter using the hashtag #NHSListening.

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