More patients are being offered a choice of hospital for their first outpatient appointment – yet there has been no increase in the total number of patients who were able to go to the hospital they wanted.
These are the findings announced in the latest Department of Health National Patient Choice Survey, conducted in March this year.
The survey report gives the final results of around 109,000 responses to the 12th such survey, commissioned to assess the implementation of choice at PCT level.
The percentage of patients recalling being offered a choice of hospital for their first outpatient appointment was 47% in March 2008, compared with 46% in January and 30% in the first survey (May/June 2006).
And 43% of patients were aware before they visited their GP that they had a choice of hospitals for their first appointment, the same as in January and up from 29% in the May/June 2006 survey.
However, this increase in choice and awareness appears to have so far made little impact in practice, as 67% of patients were able to go to the hospital they wanted, with a further 23% having no preference and 7% unable to go where they wanted – the same as in January.
Provisional findings of the May 2008 survey reveal a slight decline in the number of patients able to go to their hospital of choice: this figure is 66%, with a further 24% having no preference and 8% unable to go where they wanted.
However, the March results revealed that 90% of the patients who offered choice were able to go to the hospital they wanted, with a further 4% having no preference. This compares with 46% of patients not offered choice able to go where they wanted, with 42% having no preference.
In addition, 79% of patients were satisfied with how long they had to wait from the time their GP referred them to when they saw the hospital specialist. Hospital cleanliness and low infection rates were selected most often (by 75% of patients) as an important factor when choosing a hospital.
Has Choose and Book made a difference to patient satisfaction? Your comments: (Terms and conditions apply)
"Not yet. I should like to see how many patients decided to go to their local hospital compared with those chosing to go further afield (assuming the facilities are locally available). I am not convinced that patients want to travel too far away because they like to have family and friends nearby" – Name and address withheld