After years of evidence gathering and preparation and several months very hard work, the Ireland Government has delivered what we regard as the most successful inpatient experience programme ever run. Working with Picker Institute Europe, the programme management (representing three different Government departments and agencies), adopted what can only be regarded as a Gold Standard approach to their first national programme. Over 27,000 patients were invited to give feedback; every single patient discharged from 40 public hospitals across the country. In this initial programme, only paper surveys were used. While this added significant cost to the programme it also ensured the greatest possible participation. The final response rate of over 50% is testament to the great planning, commitment to effective communication and hard work and skill of the lead research company, Behaviour & Attitudes.

People working with Cemplicity will be aware of our commitment to continuous improvement. We encourage our clients to implement ongoing programmes that reach every patient through a health service. Our tools enable health services to take action as feedback requires, in an efficient and timely way. The Irish national programme however, took a different approach. They designed the programme around one month in the year and then set out to reach every patient discharged in that month.

On reflection, we believe this approach has merit for national, at-scale programmes. Firstly, it allows focus on an effective communication strategy. With limited Government resource and budget, doing one solid implementation with a clear ‘start’ and ‘finish’, works well. Secondly, the real work starts when the surveying is done. The Irish public and health service workers need to see evidence of change and improvement. By working to an annual timetable, the Government agencies and hospital management have a window to analyse the feedback, devise their improvement strategies and get things underway before the next survey cycle.

Recent evidence from the NHS, early adopters of national patient experience measurement, signals limited sustained improvement as a result of capturing patient experiences of care through national programmes. What is clear is that where sustained, wide-scale improvement has occurred (e.g. hospital cleanliness), this is the result of national policy commitment to support local actions. With this in mind, the Irish Government has taken a sensible approach and optimised the potential impact of their investment in understanding and using patient experiences for sector improvement.

Cemplicity is very proud to have been part of this programme.