The use of patient feedback by hospital boards of directors: a qualitative study of two NHS hospitals in England

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BackgroundAlthough previous research suggests that different kinds of patient feedback are used in different ways to help improve the quality of hospital care, there have been no studies of the ways in which hospital boards of directors use feedback for this purpose.ObjectivesTo examine whether and how boards of directors of hospitals use feedback from patients to formulate strategy and to assure and improve the quality of care.MethodsWe undertook an in-depth qualitative study in two acute hospital National Health Service foundation trusts in England, purposively selected as contrasting examples of the collection of different kinds of patient feedback. We collected and analysed data from interviews with directors and other managers, from observation of board meetings, and from board papers and other documents.ResultsThe two boards used in-depth qualitative feedback and quantitative feedback from surveys in different ways to help develop strategies, set targets for quality improvement and design specific quality improvement initiatives; but both boards made less subsequent use of any kinds of feedback to monitor their strategies or explicitly to assure the quality of services.Discussion and conclusionsWe have identified limitations in the uses of patient feedback by hospital boards that suggest that boards should review their current practice to ensure that they use the different kinds of patient feedback that are available to them more effectively to improve, monitor and assure the quality of care.

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