Sunday, September 27, 2009

Can’t get no satisfaction (statistics): reporting performance

One of the most promising developments in public services in recent years has been the increasing attention to customer satisfaction - whether those customers are students, patients, residents, or whoever. Often regulators require the publication of satisfaction statistics. When the results show improvement, public sector organisations do no need much encouragement.

I was therefore interested in the latest newsletter from my local NHS hospital trust. The headline was "Survey reveals patient satisfaction is on the up":

Significant improvements since 2007 included:

- The hospital room or ward was very clean - up 12%
- Always offered a choice of food - up 12%
- Doctors always washed or cleaned their hands between touching patients - up 10%...

But where did that take the Trust? What were the new percentages? (How many doctors had dirty hands?) How do the new percentages compare with last year's? What were the old percentages? What about the average rates for other comparable hospitals?

There were no charts illustrating any of this. Just words.

Perhaps the article was not intended to report performance - only tell of how the Trust was on "on the up". But accountability is about reporting performance.

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