Birmingham health research academics call for NHS to act on mental health patient feedback

Researchers from the University of Birmingham are today making a series of recommendations  for improving the way that NHS mental health trusts collect and use patient feedback to improve the quality of care for mental health inpatients.

As part of a collaborative study funded by NIHR, a team from the Universities of Birmingham, Warwick, Sheffield and Queen Mary University of London, together with the Mental Health Foundation interviewed staff and patients across NHS mental health trusts in England and found that few are collecting patient feedback to actively improve services.

Of those trusts that do, only a quarter put their feedback to good use but, still only used it to create environmental rather than change to care services.

A new policy briefing into the findings has been published today. ‘Evaluating the Use of Patient Experience Data to Improve the Quality of Inpatient Mental Health Care’ (EURIPIDES) found that service improvements should never be led by complaints alone; but by listening to what works well for patients, NHS trusts have a real opportunity to empower both staff and patients.

Sarah-Jane Fenton, a researcher in the School of Social Policy at the University of Birmingham, said:

“All NHS Mental Health Trusts are required to collect patient feedback, but prior to this study, we did not have an understanding of how they were using this information. This is the first study to look at how patient experience feedback is used in inpatient mental health settings to drive change and improve the quality of services”.

A key finding that could change the way NHS mental health trusts collect patient experience data was that patients staying on mental health wards are never too ill to give feedback, but prefer to do so towards the end of a hospital stay to clinicians they know and trust.

Even so, it was found that it was also important that those clinicians not only provided the opportunity for an on-going dialogue about a patient’s care during their stay, but for their relatives, carers or guardians to be able to feedback without the fear of negative repercussions for the patient.

Dr Fenton said: “The key message from this study is that no one is too unwell to tell you how they are experiencing their daily care - this combats some of the myths that persist resulting in people not seeking feedback from inpatients in mental health services in order to inform quality improvement work”

The briefing has been published ahead of the full study report, which makes 18 key practice recommendations for how NHS mental health trusts collect and use patient feedback.

Professor of Mental Health and chief investigator of the study, Scott Weich, from the University of Sheffield's School of Health and Related Research, said: “Our policy briefing published today highlights the key findings and our guidance for NHS mental health trusts in how they can make best use of their valuable patient experience data.

“We have engaged NHS stakeholders at every step of the study to ensure our findings were practicable, so today we are calling on organisations like NHS England, the Department of Health and Care Quality Commission to support the NHS providers to implement the upcoming recommendations and drive service improvements centred around patient needs.”

“There will be resource implications of adopting effective models to drive service improvements, but when used alongside patient outcomes and safety data to drive change, this leads to fewer patient safety incidents, better outcomes for patients and staff feeling more empowered to improve services.

Dr Fenton added: “For clinicians, this report is useful as it highlights the need to learn from positive feedback as well as negative. It emphasises the importance of staff being supported to have the time, support, and skills in order to build trusting relationships with patients that enables them to listen and respond to feedback.”

Notes to editors:

  • For media enquiries please contact Beck Lockwood, Press Office, University of Birmingham, tel: +44 (0)121 414 2772.
  • The full study is due to be published in Health Services and Delivery Research available at the in the new year 2020. 
  • About the University of Birmingham
    • The University of Birmingham is ranked amongst the world’s top 100 institutions. Its work brings people from across the world to Birmingham, including researchers, teachers and more than 6,500 international students from over 150 countries.
    • This research was funded by the NIHR’s Health Services and Delivery Research Programme.

About the National Institute for Health Research

    The National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) is the nation's largest funder of health and care research.
    • The NIHR:
    • Funds, supports and delivers high quality research that benefits the NHS, public health and social care
    • Engages and involves patients, carers and the public in order to improve the reach, quality and impact of research
    • Attracts, trains and supports the best researchers to tackle the complex health and care challenges of the future
    • Invests in world-class infrastructure and a skilled delivery workforce to translate discoveries into improved treatments and services
    • Partners with other public funders, charities and industry to maximise the value of research to patients and the economy

The NIHR was established in 2006 to improve the health and wealth of the nation through research and is funded by the Department of Health and Social Care. In addition to its national role, the NIHR commissions applied health research to benefit the poorest people in low- and middle-income countries, using Official Development Assistance funding.

This work uses data provided by patients and collected by the NHS as part of their care and support and would not have been possible without access to this data. The NIHR recognises and values the role of patient data, securely accessed and stored, both in underpinning and leading to improvements in research and care.