Four in 10 patients say health got worse while on NHS waiting list

Four in 10 patients say their health got worse while on NHS waiting list, major survey reveals

  • 24% of those questioned by care regulator said their health got a ‘bit worse’
  • 17% said it got ‘much worse’ while they were stuck in the record NHS backlog

Four in ten patients admitted to hospital for planned treatment say their health got worse while on the NHS waiting list, a major survey reveals.

Some 24 per cent of those questioned by the care regulator said their health got a ‘bit worse’ while waiting, while 17 per cent said it got ‘much worse’.

Many also complained that they were unable to access the food, drink and drugs they needed while in hospital because of a shortage of staff.

The Care Quality Commission’s annual inpatient survey looked at the overall experience of more than 63,000 people who stayed in one of 133 acute and specialist NHS trusts in England for at least one night during November last year.

The damning findings, which come as waiting lists stand at a record 7.6million patients, show 39 per cent of respondents would have liked to have been admitted sooner – up from 35 per cent the previous year.

England’s backlog, for procedures like hip and knee replacements, stood at 7.6million in June. It means roughly one in seven people across the country are currently stuck in the system awaiting care. More than 380,000 patients have gone a year without being treated, often in agony

A third (34 per cent) of all those admitted for planned or emergency treatment said they had to wait too long for a bed once they got to hospital, up from 30 per cent a year earlier.

Among these, those that said they had to wait ‘far too long’ increased from 8 per cent in 2020 and 15 per cent in 2021 to 18 per cent in 2022.

Only 70 per cent of patients reported always getting help to wash or keep themselves clean (unchanged from 2021, but down from 75 per cent in 2020), and just 75 per cent said they were always offered food that met any dietary needs or requirements they had (up from the 74 per cent who said this in 2021).

Furthermore, a quarter said they could never get hospital food outside of set mealtimes and 17 per cent said they did not get enough help from staff to eat their meals.

One in 20 patients also said they were not given enough to drink.

READ MORE: One in three Brits don’t believe they can access NHS GP, ambulance or hospital treatment in a ‘timely way’, damning survey reveals

Rob Fleay, 52, has been waiting for an appointment with a consultant for over a year following his surgery to remove part of his bowel. The IT consultant from Derby said that during the waiting period he also struggled to touch base with his GP

However, the CQC found most patients were still positive about their interactions with doctors and nurses, as the survey has found in previous years.

Most (81 per cent) said they always had confidence and trust in the doctors treating them, while 82 per cent said they were always treated with dignity and respect – both unchanged from 2021.

When asked to rate their overall inpatient experience, the proportion of people who gave a score of nine or higher out of 10 fell to 50 pre cent in 2022, down from 52 per cent in 2021 and 56 per cent in 2020.

There was also falls when it came to people’s views on staffing levels and getting access to their prescribed medications while on a ward.

Just over half of people (52 per cent) felt there were always enough nurses on duty to care for them in hospital, but this was down from 55 per cent in 2021 and 62 per cent in 2020.

Some 36 per cent said there were sometimes enough nurses while 13 per cent said there were never enough.

Almost two in three (62 per cent) said they were always able to get a member of staff to help when they needed attention (down from 63 per cent in 2021 and 67 per cent 2020).

Some 36 per cent said they were sometimes able to get the attention they needed, while 3 per cent said they could never get it.

The CQC said there was also scope for improvement when it came to people’s experience of being discharged from hospital.

Some 38 per cent of patients said they were involved a great deal in decisions about their discharge (same as in 2021 but down from 40 per cent in 2020), and less than half (45 per cent) said they ‘definitely’ knew what would happen next in their care after leaving hospital (consistent with 2021, though down from 46 per cent in 2020).

Poorer than average experiences were recorded overall for people admitted for emergency care, the frail, those with dementia, Alzheimer’s or a neurological condition and those aged 50 and under.

Dr Sean O’Kelly, chief inspector of healthcare at the CQC, said the positive feedback in the survey was ‘testament to the efforts of frontline healthcare professionals working tirelessly to provide high quality care to those that need it’.

The patient watchdog, which commissioned the poll of 2,507 people, found confidence in the health service has dwindled this year as it has been rocked by strikes. Out of hours GP services were rated the worst, with half of people (50 per cent), lacking confidence that they could see a family doctor in a timely fashion at night and weekends. This was followed by non-urgent operations and procedures (46 per cent), mental health support (44 per cent), GP service during the day (42 per cent) and dental care (39 per cent)

He added: ‘However, the lack of improvements in areas such as discharge arrangements and in people feeling like they were given enough information is disappointing and highlights the need for us to do more.

‘The NHS is struggling with a large elective care backlog, and these survey results reflect the impact of that backlog on people who need treatment, with an increasing number reporting that they waited too long to be admitted and four in 10 saying their health deteriorated while waiting for planned treatment.

‘The results also indicate growing public awareness of the difficulties staff face in meeting demand due to workforce shortages.

‘We know that trusts are doing all they can to see patients as quickly as possible and to manage the flow of patients from admission through to discharge to maximise capacity.

‘But as pressures continue to mount, ensuring the best possible experience throughout the entirety of the patient journey is a task that needs input from all parts of the health and care system.’

Wes Streeting, Labour’s shadow health secretary, said: ‘After 13 years of Conservative rule, NHS waiting times are through the roof.

‘Patients are being left for months or even years, and their conditions are worsening as a result.

‘This is bad for their health, and it increases the overall bill for their care to the taxpayer.

‘Labour will restore the NHS to good health, so it is there for us when we need it once again.

‘We will train the doctors and nurses needed to treat patients on time again, and reform the service to make it fit for the future.’

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