Hospitals score well in flagship ratings

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Hospital patients in Yorkshire rate inpatient and A&E care higher than in other parts of the country, new flagship satisfaction scores reveal.

But the findings come as NHS bosses carry out a review of the flagship Friends and Family Test (FFT) - heavily backed by Prime Minister David Cameron - amid criticism it is “unreliable”.

The test introduced in April 2013 asks patients whether they would recommend A&E and inpatient wards to their loved ones.

Downing Street said it would allow hospital trusts to gain real-time feedback on their services down to individual ward level and increase transparency of the NHS to “improve choice and quality” by allowing the public to compare hospitals.

Hailing the test introduced in the wake of the Mid Staffordshire NHS trust scandal, Mr Cameron said last year that it should be used as a single measure of “quality of care right across the country”.

Trusts with poor scores are being targeted by NHS regulators, while those with good response rates get financial rewards.

Patients can give a number of responses when asked if they would recommend a ward or A&E unit to friends and family if they needed similar care.

Scores are calculated by taking away the proportion in the total number of responses of those saying they are “extremely unlikely”, “unlikely” or “neither likely or unlikely” to recommend treatment from the proportion of those saying they are “extremely likely” to recommend treatment.

In 2013-14, the average score in England for A&E care was 54, ranging in Yorkshire between 65 in Sheffield and at the Mid Yorkshire NHS trust to 41 at the Calderdale and Huddersfield trust and 48 in Bradford. Overall eight of the 13 trusts in the region were above the English average.

The average inpatient score ranged between 80 at the Hull and East Yorkshire NHS trust and 69 at the Bradford and Airedale trusts, which were the only two in Yorkshire below the English average of 71.

But doubts have been raised about the value of the test prompting NHS England to launch a review which is expected to report within weeks.

There has been criticism about whether it can be used to compare different trusts, mainly due to significant differences in response rates.

An analysis by Picker Institute Europe, revealed by the Health Service Journal ahead of its publication next month, said the test was “unreliable” for comparisons even when used locally, claiming different collection methods mean it “cannot be reliably used to compare performance”.

In Yorkshire, the test appears to underline concerns about casualty at Bradford Royal Infirmary where a critical report by the Care Quality Commission (CQC) into staffing levels led to major investment by hospital bosses, with 135 more nurses now employed at the trust and four new A&E specialists.

Work is underway by NHS chiefs to examine the future of emergency care services in Halifax and Huddersfield but the test scores suggest services at Calderdale Royal Hospital are more highly rated by patients than at A&E in Huddersfield Royal Infirmary (HRI), which is being tipped to remain open at the expense of the Halifax unit.

Inpatient and A&E services were also criticised at Hull Royal Infirmary and Castle Hill Hospital in Cottingham earlier this month in a CQC inspection, yet the patient rating in the city for inpatient care was the highest in the region.

The debt-hit Mid Yorkshire NHS trust is also highly rated for its A&E care although it intends to axe full emergency care at Dewsbury’s hospital.

A&E consultant and clinical lead, Mark Davies, of the Calderdale and Huddersfield NHS trust, said: “The FFT results are very important to us. Our scores put us in the “good” category yet we know there is room to improve. We continue to make improvements to the environment and to the way in which our patients are assessed and cared for in A&E at HRI.

“No decision has been made on the future of A&E services. Whatever the future plans, we need to create an A&E service with extra space for more staff and more patients. It is our aim to provide the best care for all our patients, all of the time.”

Chief nurse at the Bradford NHS trust, Juliette Greenwood, said: “Although our overall net promoter scores appear relatively low, 83 per cent of patients in A&E and 95 per cent of inpatients surveyed said they were ‘likely’ or ‘extremely likely’ to recommend our hospitals to their friends and family.

“The overwhelmingly majority of comments were also positive and we are pleased to hear that, on the whole, our patients are telling us that they are happy with our service. We would urge all patients to give their feedback: it really does count towards improving NHS services.”

NHS England said it had made a commitment to review the test after the first six months of data had been collected to focus on what had worked and what might be improved.

“The evidence gathering began in November 2013 and we expect the review to be published in the summer,” said a spokesman.