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Can clinicians benefit from patient satisfaction surveys? Evaluating the NSF for Older People, 2005-2006

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Steve Iliffe, Jane Wilcock, Jill Manthorpe, Jo Moriarty, Michelle Cornes, Roger Clough, Les Bright

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)598-604
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of the Royal Society of Medicine
Issue number12
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2008

King's Authors


A transformation of healthcare is underway, from a sellers' market to a consumers' market, where the satisfaction of the patient's needs is part of the definition of quality. Patient satisfaction surveys are widely used to judge service quality, but clinicians are sceptical about them because they are too often poorly designed measures that do not lead to improvements in the quality of care.

To explore the use of patient satisfaction survey data in identifying problems with the provision of inpatient care for older people.

A case study using secondary analysis of postal survey data about older people's experiences of health and social care services, obtained during the evaluation of the National Service Framework for Older People in 2005-2006. The survey asked about experiences of inpatient care and of discharge from hospital, and sought perceptions of the avoiclability of the admission.Settings and participants A total of 4170 people aged 50 years and over returned a postal questionnaire in six local authority areas of England. Responses from 584 who had experienced a recent overnight stay in hospital are reported and discussed.

The response rate was 35%, ranging from 26% to 44% in the six areas surveyed. The great majority of those who had recent direct experience of inpatient care reported that they had been engaged in decision-making, that staff promoted their independence and maintained their dignity. There were widespread examples, however, of the opposite experiences. Discharge from hospital was problematic for about one-third of survey respondents with this experience, and there were different accounts of poorly managed discharges from all areas.

Case studies using local survey data can be used as formative assessments of services. The response rate to the survey and the likelihood of responder bias mean that patient satisfaction survey data of this sort cannot be used to judge or compare services in a summative way, but can highlight areas where remedial action is needed. Small-scale local surveys may seem to lack the robustness of larger studies, but do identify similar areas of concern. Commissioners and clinicians could use the findings of such surveys to inform dialogues about the quality of hospital care for older people.

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