Thursday, March 8, 2012

Safety fear hospitals not deterring patients

Safety fears at a number of hospitals in the UK appear to be having no effect on patient numbers a recent report monitoring attendance records has uncovered recently.

The study has come about after a recent report developed by the Healthcare Commission that widely criticised a number of health concerns across a number of hospitals operated by the NHS.  The report was widely covered gaining a significant amount of national news coverage.  This however, appears to have had little to no effect on patient numbers at the three hospitals studied by the Imperial College London.

Both university hospitals, Leicester Trust and Mid-Staffordshire Foundation Trust saw no difference in the number of patients received after the initial report was released.  The only one to see a fall was Maidstone and Tunbridge Wells which saw a 12% drop over a 3 month period and a 14% drop over six months before rising to normal levels following the report.

The lead author of the report Anthony Laverty was surprised by the information he however thinks that relying on a reaction from releasing such information to the public in the hope that it will spark a change is a risky practice.  He believes that for any real changes to be made, it will come from internal pressures worried about reputational damage rather than those patients concerned with receiving the best care possible.
It is understood that these types of studies are generally aimed at those responsible for the standards of quality at hospitals, such as the managers and clinicians in an attempt to try and impact the way the hospitals operate.  Patient choice should however always be considered but as the study points out, it does not seem to be a key force in improving the quality of care.

The research pointed out that geographical location of a hospital and recommendations from friends and family play a large role in when a patient is considering where to meet their healthcare needs.  The quality of service is no doubt important however it takes a back seat to these more pressing concerns.  The BMJ recently reported around issues of patient choice and competition and commented that this is still an area that needs more investigation before any true deductions can be made.

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