Last updated on 14th June 2010
"Better together: Scotland's patient experience programme" works to use the public's experience of NHS Scotland to improve health services. At the end of April they published provisional results for GP Practices throughout Scotland, and pilot results for a few initial hospitals are beginning to come through as well. I find this fascinating, sobering, helpful stuff.
How do you know which GP practice to go to when you move to a new area? How do your local practices compare? Normally one would have relied on the advice of a few people, or made decisions based on quite limited facts. These results on Scottish GP practices, at a stroke, give patients much more information. They also give GP practices much more information too. For some practices, reading these results must be quite daunting and disappointing. For some, the results will be cause for real pleasure and encouragement.
The "Better together" website is also going to report fully on Scottish hospitals, and it already contains a searchable list of individual patients' stories about services (e.g. breast screening, MRI scans, etc), conditions (searchable by name & by body area), and health boards. The NHS in England & Wales has similar initiatives - see, for example, the Department of Health's "National survey of NHS patients" and information/resources from the "Care quality commission".
When I talked briefly to some GP friends about the "Better together" survey findings, I was sad to hear that they were mostly pretty critical about the current value of this work. They said things about small sample sizes and poorly validated research methods. Maybe they're right. Maybe too they understandably feel a bit on the defensive. Overall though, this initiative to find out what users of our health services feel and pay attention to their comments - this seems hugely sensible and worthwhile. And I do think it's a good resource if you want to get a better sense of how users of a particular general practice have experienced the service that's been provided to them.