What do patients really think of the NHS and its staff?

What do patients really think of the NHS and its staff? That was the question NHS England wanted to know the answer to when requesting Paul Baker and Gavin Brookes to make sense of comments that patients leave online. This was no small task – with a total of 228 000 comments, or 29 million words, collected from the NHS Choices website!

From these responses, it was evident to see that the majority of complaints about the NHS centred around frustration over time delays. The phrase ‘took forever’ was used repeatedly, along with descriptions on the difficulties of getting appointments and time wasted in waiting rooms.

However, overall NHS England has come out rather well – with many more positive evaluations than negative ones. Interestingly, surgeons, dentists and paramedics received particularly good results, being evaluated positively 95% of the time. The language used suggests surgeons, who gratifyingly came top, tend to receive positive feedback because many people are impressed by the job they do: ‘My surgeon was someone I could trust with my life,’ wrote one patient. As a result, surgeons were most likely to be referred to as ‘outstanding’, while midwives were often described as ‘exceptional’.

Moving down the chart, however, receptionists fare much less well, only attracting 57% positive evaluations. Everyone seems to have their ‘horrible receptionist’ story, using terms such as ‘rude’, ‘unprofessional’, ‘patronising’ and even ‘aggressive’.

Should we perhaps conclude that the NHS should give surgeons, dentists and paramedics, as well as hard working GPs, a pay rise and send receptionists on training courses? What is your view? Does the ‘attitude’ or the ‘culture’ of the NHS – particularly that of the ancillary staff – need to change? Do add your thoughts and reactions to this blog.

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