Published: 12/08/2004, Volume II4, No. 5918 Page 9

Trust managers are delighted by the positive feedback from last week's national patient survey, showing that nine in 10 people are happy with the care they have received in hospital.

The Healthcare Commission survey has revealed that in 2004, 92 per cent of adults across England ranked their overall care during their stay as good, very good or excellent.

University Hospitals Coventry and Warwickshire trust was England's second best improver since the first England-wide survey in 2002. Nursing director Hilary Scholefield said involving patients in trust-wide decisions had reaped rewards. She told HSJ: 'The bit We are most pleased about is where We have improved overall care - That is one of the things It is so hard to impact on. Things like respect, dignity, privacy, and doctors and nurses explaining things to patients more clearly.'

The satisfaction rates recorded by ambulance trusts were even higher.An astonishing 99 per cent of patients were satisfied.

Bedfordshire and Hertfordshire Ambulance and Paramedic Service trust chief executive Anne Walker believed high rates of satisfaction were rooted in the promptness of 999 responses. 'The results are always overwhelmingly positive.

That is because you really do get an immediate service.'

Patients also said access to primary care was improving.

Patients were 'highly satisfied' with the amount of time spent in GP consultations and the care received from clinical staff.

Darlington primary care trust chief executive Colin Morris described the survey results as 'pretty good', with his trust scoring about average against the competition. 'The only problem will be when we start to get into the next phase with choice and payment by results - that could get too complex for patients to understand.'

Haringey Teaching PCT chief executive David Sloman was 'really, really pleased' to see his organisation moving in the right direction, through better communication with patients and better public health initiatives such as flu jabs and blood pressure monitoring. But he said services had 'a long, long way to go', particularly in improving healthcare environments.

Mental health trusts lagged behind, with only 74 per cent of service users rating their care as good to excellent.

Room for improvement: the biggest gripes This year, the Healthcare Commission carried out surveys examining adult acute and specialist inpatient services, primary care, the ambulance service, mental health services and under-18s' experiences of hospital care. In total, 300,000 patients responded to the surveys, the results of which fed into trusts' star-ratings last month.

The main criticism was the absence of patient involvement in decisions about care and treatment, and the lack of good information to allow meaningful consent.This was particularly the case in mental health services, where only half of service users had been given a copy of their care plan and only half had received a care review in the previous year.

The Healthcare Commission also highlighted a discrepancy between public perceptions of access in primary care and official government statistics. Just 54 per cent of patients surveyed said they could get an appointment with a GP within two days - much lower than government claims that 97 per cent of doctors have met the target.But this year's survey was an improvement on the 2002 figure of 31 per cent.