Labour stops asking the uncomfortable question- is your hospital OK?

National Health Service staff are no longer being asked whether they would be happy to be treated in their own hospitals, because the answers don’t match labours’ spin.

The question, seen by some as one of the most revealing pointers to underperforming hospitals, has been dropped from an annual official survey.

The Healthcare Commission, which conducts the survey, cited employees’ unhappiness with care standards as one of the concerns at Mid-Staffordshire NHS Trust. A subsequent investigation concluded that hundreds of patients there died as a result of poor quality care.

Only 27 per cent of staff said they would be happy with the standard of care they would receive at the hospital. Almost half disagreed or strongly disagreed with the proposition.

But the question has now been removed from the Department of Health’s survey of 160,000 NHS staff.

Andrew Lansley, the Conservative health spokesman, said a Tory government would restore it. “One of the most telling indicators that things were going badly wrong at Stafford hospital was that too few staff said they’d recommend the hospital to their family or friends,” he said.

Questions in the survey are agreed between the health department and the Healthcare Commission. A spokesman for its successor, the Care Quality Commission, said the original question asked if staff were “happy to be provided care by my own organisation”. It was modified, as some staff answered “no” because they would seek treatment elsewhere on privacy grounds.

The question was then changed to whether staff would be “happy with the standard of care”. But that was dropped after 2006, as staff in mental health and learning disabilities trusts felt uncomfortable answering a question that did not directly apply to their condition, or felt they could not answer, as they felt some parts of a hospital’s service were good and others poor.

John Appleby, chief economist at the King’s Fund health think-tank, said it was a good question to ask. “If there is anybody who knows what the quality of care at their hospital is, it is the people who work there.”

He added: “At Mid-Staffordshire, 47 per cent said they would not be happy with the standard of care, but at some hospitals, fewer than 2 per cent said that. The numbers may require careful interpretation, but that sort of variation must be telling you something.”


Health Direct reminds readers that the truth can be painful. If labour can’t stand the heat they shouldn’t be surprised when patients kick them out in a year’s time.

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