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What matters to medical ward patients, and do we measure it? A qualitative comparison of patient priorities and current practice in quality measurement, on UK NHS medical wards

30 Mar 2019


To compare the quality metrics selected for public display on medical wards to patients’ and carers’ expressed quality priorities.


Multimodal qualitative evaluation of general medical wards and semi-structured interviews.


UK tertiary National Health Service (public) hospital.


Fourteen patients and carers on acute medical wards and geriatric wards.


Quality metrics on public display evaluated hand hygiene, hospital-acquired infections, nurse staffing, pressure ulcers, falls and patient feedback. The intended audience for these metrics was unclear, and the displays gave no indication as to whether performance was improving or worsening. Interviews identified three perceived key components of high-quality ward care: communication, staff attitudes and hygiene. These aligned poorly with the priorities on display. Suboptimal performance reporting had the potential to reduce patients’ trust in their medical teams. More philosophically, patients’ and carers’ ongoing experiences of care would override any other evaluation, and they felt little need for measures relating to previous performance. The display of performance reports only served to emphasise patients’ and carers’ lack of control in this inpatient setting.


There is a gap between general medical inpatients’ care priorities and the aspects of care that are publicly reported. Patients and carers do not act as ‘informed choosers’ of healthcare in the inpatient setting, and tokenistic quality measurement may have unintended consequences.

Click here to view the full article which appeared in BMJ Open