What we've heard in our hospital ward survey so far

We are running a survey to find out how friends and relatives have found contacting loved ones in hospital.
Two men talking in a hospital reception

Due to COVID-19 measures in hospitals, temporary visitor restrictions are in place across England which limit who can visit hospital wards, when, and for how long. Through our survey, we’re asking local people how they’ve found speaking to friends and relatives and getting updates from staff.

As we continue to receive responses to the survey, this article shares what people have told us so far.

Lack of access to updates and information

Many people have told us about their frustration at not being able to get regular updates about the condition of their friends and relatives. People have told us that calls to ward phones are rarely answered. When relatives do manage to speak to a member of staff, information is often not forthcoming.

 

As one respondent put it, “I found it very difficult to find out what was happening.” Another respondent told us, “the phone just rang and rang,” while another said “it was frustrating not being able to get through.”

 

Several respondents have told us about the emotional difficulty of this. They told us that it was stressful not to know about the condition of the friend or relative. One person told us that trying to get through to the ward without a response made them “very worried as I didn’t have a clue what was happening.”

 

Contacting friends and relatives directly

Some respondents told us that the only way to receive updates was to contact their friend or relative directly using their mobile phone. They told us that this was their only method of regular communication, and the only way they could find out about the treatment and condition of their friend or relative.

 

While this contact was welcomed, respondents told us that only being able to receive updates through their relative in hospital presented its own problems. Patients themselves cannot give the same level of information to loved ones as medical staff. They also might not be aware of the entire situation, or not be in a state to provide adequate updates.

 

One respondent told us their relative in hospital “was able to give a rough idea of what treatment he had.” However, they also told us, “he didn’t have a clue” what ward he was on or where in the hospital he was. Friends and relatives could be left in a position where they have been given a false idea of the situation or left without certain key pieces of information.

 

Pressure on staff

Many respondents told us they recognised how busy staff were. Some respondents praised hospital staff and told us that when they did manage to speak to them their interactions were very positive and useful. One person told us, “the few staff I did speak to were very polite and friendly.” Another told us “our experience was very positive… care at the hospital was excellent.”

 

Take the survey

This article discusses just a few things people have told us through our hospital ward access survey. In a particularly challenging time for patients, relatives, and health services, it is important that local people’s experiences are heard to improve care quality and outcomes for everyone. As the independent champion for people using local health services, we are regularly reporting what patients and relatives are telling us to health care service providers and decision makers.

 

Do you have an experience contacting a friend or relative in hospital that you’d like to share with us? Take the survey now.

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You can help make health and care services better by sharing your experiences and ideas.

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