Patients’ experiences of NHS administration

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Why we did this project

Almost everyone has experience of interacting with NHS administrative processes and staff. This includes activities such as booking appointments, registering with a GP surgery and corresponding with NHS services in writing or over the phone. These processes are key in supporting the NHS to deliver care to millions of patients each week.

Although these processes can work well, we know from our own experiences and from talking to family and friends that patients’ experience of NHS administration is often poor, despite the best efforts of staff. This can have a negative impact on people’s overall experience of using a service, and often comes at a time when they are already feeling anxious. Sometimes, for example in the case of lost test results, poor administration can have an effect on the care people receive.

Despite this, there has been very little research into NHS administration and its impact on patients, and these issues are not routinely captured in NHS data.

What we did

The King’s Fund worked in collaboration with Healthwatch, the independent champion for people who use health and social care services, and National Voices, the coalition of health and care charities, on a project exploring people’s experiences of NHS administrative processes and staff. Through our research we explored:

  • the impact of poor NHS administration on patients, service users and carers
  • why poor administration happens
  • opportunities for making improvements to NHS administration in the future.

The first stage of our work involved a review of the available literature and data relating to NHS administration. We also analysed a sample of comments posted on the Care Opinion website, the findings from which are set out in this blog.

We have engaged with patients and service users and with NHS staff to explore the issues above. Specifically:

  • Local Healthwatch carried out engagement work with patients and the public in five areas. This involved a mix of patients, ranging from those who use NHS services only occasionally to those who have regular contact with multiple services.
  • National Voices carried out interviews and workshops with their member charities and patients, with a particular focus on those with long-term conditions who use multiple services and people affected by inequalities.
  • The King’s Fund is carried out interviews with NHS staff, covering a mix of services and staff roles.

The King’s Fund then drew together the findings from these three strands of work into a final report.

Key milestones

The final report Admin matters: the impact of NHS administration on patient care was published Thursday 24 June 2021.

Contact

For further information about the project please contact Laura Lamming l.lamming@kingsfund.org.uk or Leo Ewbank at l.ewbank@kingsfund.org.uk.

Project leads

Laura Lamming

Researcher

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Leo Ewbank

Researcher, Policy

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Deborah Ward

Senior Analyst, Policy

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Dan Wellings

Senior Fellow, Policy