The use of patient experience survey data by out-of-hours primary care services: a qualitative interview study

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Abstract

Background

English National Quality Requirements mandate out-of-hours primary care services to routinely audit patient experience, but do not state how it should be done.

Objectives

We explored how providers collect patient feedback data and use it to inform service provision. We also explored staff views on the utility of out-of-hours questions from the English General Practice Patient Survey (GPPS).

Methods

A qualitative study was conducted with 31 staff (comprising service managers, general practitioners and administrators) from 11 out-of-hours primary care providers in England, UK. Staff responsible for patient experience audits within their service were sampled and data collected via face-to-face semistructured interviews.

Results

Although most providers regularly audited their patients’ experiences by using patient surveys, many participants expressed a strong preference for additional qualitative feedback. Staff provided examples of small changes to service delivery resulting from patient feedback, but service-wide changes were not instigated. Perceptions that patients lacked sufficient understanding of the urgent care system in which out-of-hours primary care services operate were common and a barrier to using feedback to enable change. Participants recognised the value of using patient experience feedback to benchmark services, but perceived weaknesses in the out-of-hours items from the GPPS led them to question the validity of using these data for benchmarking in its current form.

Conclusions

The lack of clarity around how out-of-hours providers should audit patient experience hinders the utility of the National Quality Requirements. Although surveys were common, patient feedback data had only a limited role in service change. Data derived from the GPPS may be used to benchmark service providers, but refinement of the out-of-hours items is needed.

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