March 18, 2010 2:00 am

NHS staff lack faith in quality of care, poll finds

Many hundreds of thousands of patients are being treated in hospitals where at least 20 per cent of the staff have said they would not be happy with the standard of care if a friend or relative needed treatment, an NHS staff survey has found.

Yesterday's figures were described as "deeply worrying" by John Appleby, chief economist at the King's Fund health think-tank.

In the survey, between 300 and 400 staff at all NHS trusts were asked whether they agreed or disagreed with the statement: "If a friend or relative needed treatment, I would be happy with the standard of care provided."

Just under two-thirds of staff, including doctors, nurses and managers agreed, with a considerable proportion neither agreeing nor disagreeing.

But at 17 NHS trusts and foundation trusts, roughly one in 10 of the total, more than 20 per cent of staff disagreed with the statement. At three of them, Scarborough, West Hertfordshire and Mid-Staffordshire NHS Foundation Trust, where the NHS inspectorate has said a patient died unnecessarily , more than a quarter of staff disagreed.

"That means a large number of patients, potentially millions, are being treated in hospitals at which a significant proportion of staff would not be happy to see their friend or relative treated," Prof Appleby said.

He added: "The boards of these hospitals should take that very seriously . . . And one of the things that these results should be used for is for the Care Quality Commission [the NHS inspectorate] to see whether results like this should trigger an investigation."

At specialist hospitals such as the Royal Marsden in Surrey and London, Papworth in Cambridge and the Queen Victoria burns hospital, Sussex, no staff were unhappy for a friend or relative to be treated there and more than 90 per cent said they would be happy for that to happen.

By contrast, just 36 per cent of staff would be happy with the standard of care for a friend or relative at Scarborough, and 41 per cent at Mid-Staffordshire.

"That huge variation must be telling you something," Prof Appleby said, "and this set of data should be examined much more thoroughly to see whether it is a predictor of hospitals that are going to fail or get in to serious trouble."

A few low-scoring trusts, including Tameside in Lancashire and Sunderland, are flagship foundation trusts that are meant to be among the country's best, but 18 to 20 per cent of staff would not be happy for a friend or relative to be treated in them.

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