Healthwatch Dorset investigated the experiences, needs and expectations of people who use A&E, to help make the service better now and to inform plans for the new modern Emergency Department that is currently under construction. The hospital invited former A&E patients to take part in the project, and those who responded were interviewed over the phone by Healthwatch Dorset volunteers between September and December 2021. People were asked to rate their visit to A&E and to comment on what could be done differently to improve their experience. They were also asked how they had ended up at A&E, for example via NHS 111, GP or ambulance; whether they were kept well informed about what was happening during their visit to A&E; about waiting times, the environment and any follow-up care and support they had received. Patient feedback was overwhelmingly positive, with almost three quarters rating their experience as ‘very good’. Most people commented that:
- A&E staff treated them with care and kindness
- Staff were professional, efficient, and organised
- Waiting times were short
- Communication was good
- Information and aftercare met their needs.
However, there were also common themes in the negative feedback gathered:
- Long waiting times for a small number of patients
- Some unhelpful staff, particularly at reception
- Unclear information, navigation, and signposting
- Lack of comfortable facilities
- Lack of confidentiality and privacy for patients
- Poor communication and lack of further support for some people.
96 patients (38%) said there was nothing the hospital could have done differently to improve their experience, 85 people didn’t comment, and 75 people offered suggestions for improvement. Healthwatch Dorset analysed what people told them and recommended the following actions to help Dorset County Hospital improve patient experience in A&E.
- The ongoing refurbishment of A&E should meet the needs people have raised in this research, including a request for more comfort and privacy for patients.
- Patients and their carers should be given a leaflet and online information about support available after leaving A&E, including a contact for follow up questions and information about the Patient Advice and Liaison Service (PALS).
- The hospital should look at staff training and ways to improve staff morale, particularly for A&E reception staff, to make sure that patients are treated kindly and with respect, even when hospital staff are working in stressful circumstances.
- Signage and parking information should be improved.
- The A&E department should review the ways in which people are kept informed while they are waiting, including the use of volunteers to support patients who are anxious or distressed.
- The public should be made more aware of Weymouth Urgent Treatment Centre to help reduce the number of people needing to be redirected there from A&E.
Nicky Lucey, Chief Nursing Officer/Interim Deputy Chief Executive at Dorset County Hospital, thanked Healthwatch Dorset for the report saying:
“The experience of people that use our services is really important to us, particularly as they have accessed services when we have been under pressure through the pandemic. Working with Healthwatch Dorset helps us engage differently with the population to really hear their voice to influence our quality improvement. I am pleased the report echoed our clinicians voice on the need for the estate development, which is part of our future estates strategy for the Emergency Department.”
Read the full report which includes data and patients’ comments: Dorset County Hospital A&E: People’s experiences – What works well and what could be improved? You can share your feedback with Healthwatch Dorset about any health and social care service, by visiting healthwatchdorset.co.uk/talk-to-us or by calling Freephone 0300 111 0102.