A diagnosis of the NHS – by its patients

Health service scores strongly for cleanliness but badly for mixed-sex wards, reports Jeremy Laurance

A snapshot of the NHS seen through patients' eyes, published today, shows that despite record investment over the past decade, problems persist with mixed-sex wards, hospital food and answering call buttons.

The National Inpatient Survey, by the Care Quality Commission (CQC), the health and social care inspectorate, is one of the largest of its kind, covering 72,000 patients who spent at least one night in hospital in 2008.

More patients rate their wards as clean and say doctors and nurses are washing their hands. But on giving help with eating, involving patients in decisions and communicating with GPs, they are falling short.

Cynthia Bower, chief executive of the CQC, said: "It's great to see patients noticing improvements in cleanliness and handwashing. There are now real signs that the NHS is beginning to get to grips with infection control. Rates of MRSA and C. Difficile are now falling. However, patients are clearly highlighting some persistent problems, such as help with eating and involvement in decisions. It is a great shame the NHS has not got a stronger grip on these issues."

The Patients Association ridiculed the survey for giving Mid Staffordshire NHS Trust an average rating, including two out of three for its A&E department, after an inquiry by the Healthcare Commission (the CQC's forerunner) in March uncovered "appalling" emergency care which may have led to hundreds of deaths. "What is this survey if it cannot pick up on poor care?" said Katherine Murphy, the association's director.


In 2008, 95 per cent of patients said their room or ward was "very clean" or "fairly clean". Among the worst performers was Hillingdon Hospital, Middlesex, where 12 per cent of patients said their room or ward was "not very clean" or "not at all clean".

Washing hands

Almost three-quarters (74 per cent) of patients said doctors always cleaned their hands between touching patients, up from 67 per cent in 2005. But doctors still trail nurses – 76 per cent said nurses always cleaned their hands.

Quality of food

More than half of patients (58 per cent) rated the food as "good" or "very good". However 14 per cent said it was "poor". Among the worst trusts was Queen Elizabeth Hospital, Woolwich, where 29 per cent rated the food as "poor".

Help with eating

This remains a major problem in NHS care. About 30 per cent of patients need help with eating but 18 per cent of those say they did not get it.

Mixed-sex wards

One in 10 patients with a planned admission said they had to share a sleeping area with the opposite sex. Among emergency patients, 29 per cent shared. This showed no significant improvement on 2007. The Tories said Labour's record on mixed-sex wards was a "series of broken promises".

Answering call buttons

There was no improvement here compared with 2007 – 17 per cent said the bell was usually answered right away but 15 per cent said it took longer than five minutes. Two per cent complained that it was not answered at all.

Overall care

Patients are growing more positive about the NHS – gradually. In 2008, 93 per cent rated their care as "excellent", "very good" or "good", up from 92 per cent in 2007.

Those who rated their care as "excellent" increased from 38 per cent in 2002 to 43 per cent in 2008, a period that has seen an extra £45bn ploughed into the service.

Patients' survey: The best hospital for...

Clean Rooms Queen Victoria NHS Trust, East Grinstead, Sussex: 87 per cent of patients said the rooms were "very clean".

Quality of food Robert Jones and Agnes Hunt hospital, Shropshire: 84 per cent said food was "very good".

Mixed-sex wards Harrogate NHS Trust: Only 4 per cent said they had to share with the opposite sex.

Answering call buttons Liverpool Heart and Chest NHS Trust: 35 per cent said calls answered right away.

Overall care Christie Hospital NHS Trust, Manchester: 68 per cent said care was "excellent".

Life and Style
ebooksA superb mix of recipes serving up the freshest of local produce in a delicious range of styles
Life and Style
ebooksFrom the lifespan of a slug to the distance to the Sun: answers to 500 questions from readers
Alan Bennett criticised the lack of fairness in British society encapsulated by the private school system
peopleBut he does like Stewart Lee
John Terry, Frank Lampard
footballChelsea captain sends signed shirt to fan whose mum had died
Life and Style
food + drink
Arts and Entertainment
Rita Ora will replace Kylie Minogue as a judge on The Voice 2015
Life and Style
Life and Style
Alan Turing, who was convicted of gross indecency in 1952, was granted a royal pardon last year
Arts and Entertainment
Sheridan Smith as Cilla Black and Ed Stoppard as her manager Brian Epstein
tvCilla Episode 2 review: Grit under the glamour in part two of biopic series starring Sheridan Smith
Life and Style
Arts and Entertainment
Tennis player Andy Murray's mum Judy has been paired with Anton du Beke for Strictly Come Dancing. 'I'm absolutely delighted,' she said.
tvJudy Murray 'struggling' to let Anton Du Beke take control on Strictly
Life and Style
Vote with your wallet: the app can help shoppers feel more informed about items on sale
lifeNew app reveals political leanings of food companies
David Moyes and Louis van Gaal
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Primary teaching roles in Ipswich

    £21552 - £31588 per annum: Randstad Education Cambridge: Randstad Education re...

    Science teachers needed in Norwich

    £21000 - £35000 per annum: Randstad Education Cambridge: Science teachers requ...

    Semi Senior Accountant - Music

    £30000 - £35000 per annum: Sauce Recruitment: A successful, Central London bas...

    English teachers required in Lowestoft

    £21000 - £35000 per annum: Randstad Education Cambridge: Qualified English tea...

    Day In a Page

    Secret politics of the weekly shop

    The politics of the weekly shop

    New app reveals political leanings of food companies
    Beam me up, Scottie!

    Beam me up, Scottie!

    Celebrity Trekkies from Alex Salmond to Barack Obama
    Beware Wet Paint: The ICA's latest ambitious exhibition

    Beware Wet Paint

    The ICA's latest ambitious exhibition
    Pink Floyd have produced some of rock's greatest ever album covers

    Pink Floyd have produced some of rock's greatest ever album covers

    Can 'The Endless River' carry on the tradition?
    Sanctuary for the suicidal

    Sanctuary for the suicidal

    One mother's story of how London charity Maytree helped her son with his depression
    A roller-coaster tale from the 'voice of a generation'

    Not That Kind of Girl:

    A roller-coaster tale from 'voice of a generation' Lena Dunham
    London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice. In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence

    London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice

    In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence
    Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with Malcolm McLaren

    Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with McLaren

    Designer 'felt pressured' into going out with Sex Pistols manager
    Jourdan Dunn: Model mother

    Model mother

    Jordan Dunn became one of the best-paid models in the world
    Apple still coolest brand – despite U2 PR disaster

    Apple still the coolest brand

    Despite PR disaster of free U2 album
    Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

    Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

    Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
    Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

    Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

    The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
    The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

    Scrambled eggs and LSD

    Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
    'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

    'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

    Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
    Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

    New leading ladies of dance fight back

    How female vocalists are now writing their own hits