How good is your hospital? Some helpful hints…

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How can you check on whether a hospital will be able to care for you properly?

NHS hospital surgery

Of late, the NHS has been the subject of heated debate, and no little derision. Mid Staffs, Morecambe Bay, the Francis Inquiry and the Keogh Review have entered the vocabulary as bywords for perceived NHS failings. And many patients are wondering, perfectly reasonably, if they're likely to come out of hospital properly treated– or even, in extreme circumstances, if they'll come out at all.

Key indicators of quality


Since we're all at our most vulnerable when we're sick, there are various steps you can take to assess the quality of a hospital prior to your attendance.

One way is to consult Dr Foster's Good Hospital Guide, where "high quality" is used to define care that is safe, clinically effective and considered a "good experience" for patients.

Another indicator of quality is the hospital's "standardised mortality ratio" (SMR). This estimates the possibility of individual patients' deaths in given hospitals, taking on board their health, age and background, compared to the actual mortality rates in the same hospitals.

Reading published reports


But there are other measures of hospital quality besides SMR. The Care Quality Commission (CQC) has reports on hospitals which cover staffing levels, while your family doctor will know which hospitals have a record of short-notice appointments and surgery cancellations.

Together with patients' hospital ratings and reviews, NHS Choices has just published the first results of the 'friends and family test', where former patients are asked in a grading system to recommend – or not – hospitals or wards in which they have been treated.

Meanwhile, the Patient Opinion website features in-depth patients' dialogue concerning care issues, together with hospital reaction. CEO Dr Paul Hodgkin says the quality of response, provided it's friendly, honest and human, suggests better general quality might not be far off.

Complications


If you're planning to have a surgical procedure, find out how many times per year your surgeon operates. If it's a fairly common procedure, fewer than 50 a year could imply more complications.

Finally, speak to your GP if you're not satisfied with the hospital recommended. According to NHS Choices, you can attend wherever you like for your 1st appointment.


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