Patients have praised the quality of care they receive in accident and emergency departments but raised concerns about the information they are given when discharged.

Overall, 88 per cent of participants in the Healthcare Commission's patient survey rated the quality of care they received in A&E as either excellent, very good or good.

But more than one in 10 said they did not think healthcare staff did enough to help control their pain. And only just over a third said they were given a full explanation of the possible side-effects of their medication and information such as when they could drive or go back to work.

Commission chief executive Anna Walker said: "This is important feedback that trusts should listen to. We hope all trusts will compare their results with others and act to ensure they match the best.

"Understanding and responding to experiences of patients is critical in a modern NHS."

Huge progress

NHS Confederation policy director Nigel Edwards said: "The NHS has made huge strides in dealing with the clinical challenges it faces in treating more people than ever quickly and effectively. The challenge now is to ensure that the patient experience is the best it can be as well, which is why the focus is rightly moving onto areas like cleanliness, provision of information for patients and dealing with pain."

But the Liberal Democrats seized on the fact that a quarter of respondents to the survey said they spent longer than four hours in A&E, even though official figures report that 98 per cent of patients are seen within the four-hour waiting target.

Liberal Democrat health spokesman Norman Lamb said the discrepancy "must be investigated". But the commission said the difference was probably because patients do not distinguish between A&E departments and admission units, which have been introduced as a way to help hospitals meet the four-hour target.