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Waiting for a ward and not informed: The problems patients faced in Irish hospitals

“I acknowledge where we are, I acknowledge we’ve a lot to do,” the new HSE CEO Paul Reid said.

PATIENTS HAVE REPORTED not being informed enough about their treatment, care and medication as one of the biggest negative experiences of hospitals, according to the 2019 National Inpatient Experience Survey.

55% who received medication said that they were not fully informed about the side effects to watch for when they went home; while 33% said they were not adequately informed about danger signals to watch out for when they went home.

70% of respondents also said that they were not admitted to a ward within the HSE’s target waiting time of six hours, with 331 people (4%) waiting 48 hours or more before being admitted.

At the launch of the survey in the Mater Misericordiae University Hospital, the new CEO of the HSE Paul Reid promised to integrate patient responses into services.

Writing in the foreword of the HSE’s response to the patient experience findings, Reid said that ”there will be many opportunities for patients, advocates and staff to become more involved in co-designing the kind of health service that is required to meet the needs of our population”. 


Around 12,000 people who had been inpatients for at least 24 hours, and were discharged in May, responded to the questionnaire (but not everyone who answered the questionnaire answered every question):

  • 39% said they did not have enough time to discuss their care and treatment with a doctor;
  • 35% said they were not, or were only to some extent, sufficiently involved in decisions about their care and treatment; 
  • 40% said their families or people close to them did not have or only to some extent had sufficient opportunities to talk to a doctor;
  • 41% who needed help to manage their condition said that they did not receive any, or only received some, information on how to manage their condition after their discharge from hospital;
  • 46% who had worries and fears said that they could not, or could only to some extent, find a member of hospital staff to talk to about their worries and fears
  • 28% of people said that the food they received in hospital was poor or fair. 

The 2019 findings show some improvements on last year, with patients reporting more positive experiences of discharge or transfer procedures.

Questions on dignity, respect and privacy scored highly, and the majority of people gave a very positive rating of the cleanliness of rooms or wards.

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In addition, most people said that they trusted and had confidence in hospital staff – in the open-ended questions, hospital staff received high praise, while the hospital environment was criticised.

shutterstock_540478930 Source: Shutterstock/megaflopp

Responding to the survey findings, Rachel Flynn, Director of the National Care Experience Programme, said: “Although the majority of patients reported positively on their time in hospital, a large number of patients did not.

Significantly, women and younger people tended to report less positive experiences than men and people over the age of 50, as did patients of larger hospitals.

Paul Reid, the new CEO of the HSE, said that integrating feedback from patients into the healthcare service would be an aim he would have. He praised “innovative” solutions from various hospitals, namechecking Tallaght Hospital’s approach to reducing patient wait-times, and St James Hospital’s “great work” on nutrition. 

I acknowledge where we are, I acknowledge we’ve a lot to do.
We need a very different centre that’s very connected to the services… We are moving in a new direction.

“It is important that we listen to and learn from our patients so that we can continue to improve patient care.”

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