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Disabled children less happy with hospital care than peers

Survey shows marked variation in quality of care

Jo Carlowe

Tuesday, 30 June 2015

While most children are happy with the care they receive in hospital, those with disabilities report a poorer experience. 

This is the finding from the Care Quality Commission’s (CQC): Children and young people’s inpatient and day case survey 2014, published today.

Some 87% of children and young people and 88% of parents or carers rated their overall experience as seven or above out of ten – the highest scores that are available. However, the same was not the case for children with physical or learning disabilities, or mental health needs. Five per cent of children with these long-term conditions awarded overall experience scores of between 0 and 2 (with ten being the highest score possible). In comparison, children without these conditions did not give such low scores. And less than half of parents or carers in this category, said they felt staff definitely knew how to care for their child’s individual needs.

The survey of almost 19,000 children and young people who stayed in hospital overnight or were seen as a day patient also revealed wide variation between hospitals. 

Nationally, the results from the 137 acute NHS trusts which took part in the survey shows:

  • Almost nine out of ten of all eight to fifteen year olds (89%) said that they felt safe on the ward at all  times
  • 91% of parents or carers said they felt that their child was always safe
  • 80% of all eight to fifteen year olds told us that staff did everything they could to help control their pain
  • Almost three quarters (73%) of children and young people who have had surgery or a procedure received explanations about what had happened in a way that was easy for them to understand
  • Most 8-15 year olds told us staff always listened to them (78%), staff talked to them when they had worries (75%) and that staff spoke to them in a way they could understand (82%).

 Some of the findings that indicated relatively poorer quality of care include:

  • 41% of parents and carers felt staff were not always aware of their child’s medical history before treating them
  • 43% of 12 to 15 year olds said they were not fully involved in decisions about their care
  • Over one third (35%) of parents and carers said that they were not definitely encouraged to be involved in decisions about their child’s care and treatment
  • Less than half the children between 8-15 (45%) liked the food on offer
  • Almost one in three (32%) parents or carers said that staff were not always available when their child needed attention
  • Over four in ten children aged 8-11 (42%) said staff did not play or do any activities with them while in hospital

 When it came to the arrangements for leaving hospital:

  • One in every eight children were not told who to talk to or what to do if they were worried about anything when they got home.
  • One in five parents or carers were not given any written information about their child’s condition or treatment to take home, but would have liked some.

Professor Edward Baker, CQC’s Deputy Chief Inspector of Hospitals, described “marked variation between the results from individual hospitals.”

“Hospitals should examine the results of this survey, together with our inspection reports and take steps to improve their care where necessary. Children should not have different standards of care depending on which hospital they go to,” he said.

Moreover, he described as ‘worrying’ the fact that responses were less positive across all areas that involved children with specific needs.

“What is particularly worrying is that children with physical, learning or mental health needs are telling us they have poorer experiences. This needs to be addressed straight away so that services meet the needs of all children, irrespective of any disability or specific need.”

Commenting, Health Minister, Jane Ellison said: "This survey shows that the NHS is generally excellent at treating children and young people. The vast majority of young patients experience good care, compassionate staff and feel safe. But every single child and family matters. It concerns me that the CQC find that children with disabilities have poorer experiences and I know NHS staff will want to look closely at what can be done to improve this."

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