Healthwatch Dorset has been interviewing people in Poole Hospital A&E department to help improve patient experience nationally and locally.

The public feedback, featured in their new report, highlights the need for better communications with A&E patients as a priority area for improvement.

Poole Hospital is one of 14 hospitals across the country currently testing out new ways of measuring A&E performance targets, looking at the quality of care, communications and facilities, in addition to waiting times.  Healthwatch Dorset is one of six local Healthwatch working on the national project with Healthwatch England, to gather public feedback and ensure it is used to inform decisions about changes to A&E care.

Healthwatch Dorset has been finding out what matters most to people who use Poole Hospital A&E, by carrying out 10 visits and talking to over 40 patients in the department.  The new report, published today, finds that while waiting times are important, there are also other factors that affect the quality of people’s experience in A&E, particularly the quality of communication with patients and their carers.

The new performance targets piloted at Poole Hospital include achieving an average length of stay in A&E of 200 minutes or less, rather than the current national standard of four hours waiting time from arrival to admission, transfer or discharge.  Most people involved in the Healthwatch Dorset study had waited longer than four hours.  Poole A&E has a capacity for up to 180 people, but they currently see more than 215 people daily, and the department can be busy and crowded, particularly during the evening and at weekends.

The most common and recurring concerns raised by patients, family members and carers, were about the quality and frequency of communications throughout the A&E department.  The people Healthwatch Dorset spoke to wanted to be better informed about waiting times, be told clearly what would happen while they were in A&E and understand who they were talking to or who they could speak to if they had questions or needed help.

Healthwatch Dorset has shared its findings with Healthwatch England, NHS England and Poole Hospital.  It has made the following recommendations to improve communications in the hospital’s A&E department.

  • People using A&E appreciated talking to Healthwatch Dorset volunteers during this project.  The hospital should consider recruiting A&E volunteers who are visible in the department and available to answer questions.
  • The Hospital should display clear and accessible information about the A&E process, so that people know what to expect and what they can do while they are waiting to be seen, for example if they can get food or a drink.
  • A `who’s who` of staff should be prominently displayed around A&E, to help people understand who they are talking to and who they can ask for information or help.
  • Several people wanted information about what happens after a visit to A&E. A leaflet and some online information would be helpful, including who to contact about follow-up questions and care.

Most people who took part in the study were generally happy with the Poole Hospital A&E department and many praised the staff, who they understood were under pressure.

Louise Bate, Healthwatch Dorset Manager said: “By working to put patient experience at the heart of NHS England’s thinking we have aimed to ensure that any new performance targets track what matters most to patients, drive positive patient-centred behaviour in departments and are understandable by the wider public.  We will now work with Poole Hospital to share our findings and explore ways to meet our recommendations.  I’d like to thank everyone who took part in this project including all the people we spoke to in Poole A&E, our volunteers and Poole Hospital staff.”

Mark Mould, Chief Operating Officer at Poole Hospital said: “I welcome this report and how it has captured what we know to be true – that patients want timely care that they are kept informed about, and to know who is providing it.  I am looking forward to working with Healthwatch Dorset to identify how their recommendations can best be implemented to better support our patients.”

Read the full report: What matters to people using Poole Hospital Accident & Emergency?