The report, based on feedback from over 150 people and several service providers, highlights the need for improvements in communication, with patients and their carers and between services, to ensure more joined-up care and better health outcomes.
The local health and care champion regularly hears from people who have experienced poor communication, especially while being referred from one service to another. One patient commented: “I feel that so much of the confusion and distress I have experienced with medical issues in the past could have been avoided with clearer, more timely communications from and between healthcare professionals.”
Healthwatch Gloucestershire decided to explore people’s experiences in more depth to identify what is working well, what isn’t, and how services can communicate better to improve care.
According to the report, services and departments do not communicate well with each other or reliably share information, leading to patients and their supporters having to continually chase, repeat and correct information. Additionally, there is no central point of contact that can be easily and directly reached with concerns or questions, meaning most people don’t know who to contact for reliable information, advice, and signposting.
Other key findings include a lack of up-to-date information given to patients about their condition and the expected plans for their treatment and care, as well as little or no advice about financial assistance, social care options, or local support available to them.
Healthwatch Gloucestershire wants health and social care services to learn from people’s feedback to help improve how they communicate and care. The report includes several recommendations such as establishing the patient’s preferred method of communication; providing more information about plans for treatment and the care and support available; providing a central point of contact; and ensuring that communications are detailed but clear and easy to understand.
The report also suggests that health and social care providers work together to move away from silo working and separate diagnoses, towards a holistic approach that values the whole person, and advises that IT systems should be aligned across services to allow efficient sharing of medical records.
Lucy White, Healthwatch Gloucestershire Manager said: “We know that good communication makes a positive difference to people’s experience of health and social care services. Clear, accurate, and timely information, delivered in the way people need it, can impact not only people’s understanding of what the plans are for their treatment and care, but also on their engagement with the services and professionals treating them, and even how they feel about themselves. We have found that many people are currently not receiving the level of communication they need, so we have shared our report with those responsible for Gloucestershire’s NHS and social care services to help them develop and improve communications.”
Responding to the report, Suzie Cro, Deputy Director of Quality, Gloucestershire Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, said: “Thank you for sharing the final report. We see feedback as an important improvement tool…. Listening to the views of our patients helps identify what is working well, what can be improved and how. We would like to thank you for the opportunity this report brings. Also, we would like to work with you to take your nine recommendations and codesign our improvements with you. We, like you, believe that we will best improve services by listening to people’s experiences.”
Becky Parish, Associate Director, Engagement and Experience, NHS Gloucestershire/One Gloucestershire Integrated Care System, welcomed the insight provided by the report: “We really want to make sure people have the information they need to make decisions about their lives and those of their families and communities. We have recently made good progress with getting to know and grow trust within some of the diverse communities across the county and our Patient Advice and Liaison Service (PALS) teams are always a good place for people to start. We look forward to working with Healthwatch Gloucestershire over the coming year to identify innovative ways to enhance our communications; by using the findings in this report, which tell us about some of the things people want to know about; together we can develop the best ways to share that information with them.”