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'Choice? What Choice?' Say Patients

Published:4 January 2006
Fieldwork:20 - 24 Jan 2005
Theme:Health & NHS
Source:Dept of Health
Keywords:GP, Healthcare, Healthcare Providers, Hospitals, Patient Choice
(Click on keywords to find related Research)

Most people aged 40+ (around three in four) are willing to go to either NHS or private hospitals so long as they receive assurances over minimum standards of care, a MORI survey conducted for the Dept of Health, just publicly released, shows. However, awareness among this population group about the much heralded 'patient choice' agenda is currently very low: only four per cent say they know 'a great deal' about patient choice, and 15% 'a fair amount'. Conversely, two in five (41%) say they know absolutely nothing about choice in healthcare, with 39% knowing 'just a little' about it.

The general reputation of a hospital would not be the single most important factor the 40+ age group takes into account when choosing where to go for treatment or an operation; rather it is cleanliness, followed by the length of waiting lists. GPs' role in the process remains key: 76% of the public aged 40+ say they want information on choosing a hospital given to them by their local practitioner.

Most people aged 40+ would be prepared to travel at least 20 miles for treatment (assuming their GP had recommended the hospital), and half (49%) say they would be willing to travel anywhere in their local authority area. However, there is a limit to the distance people in this age group are prepared to travel — even if they could be guaranteed much shorter waiting times for operations or treatment. A distance of 100 miles to travel for treatment appears to be the approximate tipping point, after which a majority would rather put up with a longer wait for treatment more locally.

Download the report: What will people choose when choice goes live? pdf, 143KB

Topline Results

I would now like to ask you some questions about healthcare, and your attitudes towards using hospitals in the event that you needed treatment or an operation.

  • Results are based on a survey of 1,276 British residents aged 40+, conducted face-to-face in home between 20-24 January 2005.
  • Interviews were conducted at 195 sampling points.
  • Data have been weighted to the known population profile of Great Britain
  • An asterix (*) indicates a percentage of less that 0.5% but greater than zero. Where percentages do not add up to 100, this may be due to computer rounding, multiple responses or the exclusion of don't know categories.
  • All figures are percentages based on the total sample (1,276) unless otherwise stated.

Awareness Of Choice In Healthcare

Q1 The Government is developing a new policy to offer people using the NHS more choice about their treatment. How much, if anything, have you heard about this new initiative?

  %
A great deal 4
A fair amount 15
Just a little 39
Nothing at all 41
Don't know 1

Q2 Which two or three of these would be most important to you in choosing which hospital to use for treatment or an operation?

  %
Cleanliness 54
The length of time I'd have to wait for an operation or treatment 50
Reputation of the hospital 34
Operation success rates 26
Being treated with dignity and respect by staff 24
The convenience of the location / transport facilities 20
Reputation of consultants 18
Being able to set my own date and time to see a consultant or specialist 13
Having a choice of consultant 10
Whether I can have more care at home rather than in hospital 7
The environment I am treated in (e.g. in a private room or on a ward) 6
The option of having alternative / complementary therapies 5
Other 1
None of these 1
Don't know 1

Q3 Which one of the following would you most prefer to provide you with information about different hospitals to choose for your treatment?

  %
Doctor / GP 76
Independent advisor 10
Friends / family 6
Practice nurse 5
Other *
None of these — would prefer to find out information myself *
Don't know 2

Travel

Q4 If your doctor/GP decided that you needed to be referred to hospital for an operation, how far would you be prepared to travel, if at all, to get to an NHS hospital?

  %
Any NHS hospital within 20 miles 28
Any NHS hospital within my local authority 21
Any NHS hospital within 100 miles 12
Any NHS hospital in the UK 14
Any NHS hospital in Europe 11
I wouldn't be prepared to travel further than my local NHS hospital 6
It would depend on the hospital 4
None of these 1
Don't know 2

Q5 If you had the choice of going to the NHS hospital closest to you, or to another NHS hospital where you would only wait for half the time for an operation, which one would you choose if:

  Local NHS hospital Other NHS hospital Don't know  
  % % %  
Q5a) the other NHS hospital was within your local authority area 25 68 7 Base: all respondents
Q5b) the other NHS hospital was within 100 miles from your home 23 73 4 Base: all choosing other NHS hospital at q5a (881)
Q5c) the other NHS hospital was somewhere else in the UK 18 77 6 Base: all choosing other NHS hospital at q5b (640)

Q6 And if you were offered the choice of going to a private hospital, where your treatment would be paid for by the NHS, how far would you be prepared to travel, if at all, for your treatment?

  %
Any private hospital within 20 miles 22
Any private hospital within my local authority 18
Any private hospital within 100 miles 16
Any private hospital in the UK 16
Any private hospital in Europe 14
I wouldn't be prepared to travel further than my local NHS hospital 5
It would depend on the hospital 4
None of these 3
Don't know 3

Q7 If you had the choice of going to the NHS hospital closest to you, or to a private hospital where you would only wait for half the time for treatment, which one would you choose if:

  Local NHS hospital Other NHS hospital Don't know  
  % % %  
Q7a) the private hospital was within your local authority area 23 70 7 Base: all respondents
Q7b) the private hospital was within 100 miles from your home 22 74 4 Base: all choosing a private hospital at Q7a (883)
Q7c) the private hospital was somewhere else in the UK 20 76 4 Base: all choosing a private hospital at Q7b (660)

Preference For Provider

Q8 In general, would you prefer to receive treatment from a private healthcare provider, or treatment from an NHS hospital, or would you be happy with being treated at either?

  %
Private 13
NHS 25
Either 57
It depends 4
Don't know 1

Q9 Why do you say that?

  All who prefer private provider (163) All who prefer NHS provider (330)
  % %
Facilities / resources / environment
Better facilities / resources (in general) 34 15
More doctors / nurses 9 4
Having my own private room 20 0
Better food 11 1
Cleanliness 29 1
Medical performance / efficiency
More efficient (in general) 23 5
Better standard of medical care 31 15
Good reputation of hospital 5 6
Reputation of consultants better 6 2
Less time waiting for treatment 21 1
Higher operation success rates 2 2
Work practices / care
Staff treating me with greater dignity and respect 20 6
Option of alternative / complementary therapies 3 *
More flexible treatment (e.g. home care rather than long hospital stay) 4 1
Experience
Previous personal experience 11 18
Experience of friends / family 6 4
Other
Believe in / support the NHS 0 8
Paid for it / paid taxes 0 3
Cost / money 0 2
I work for the NHS 0 2
Know more about the sector / provider, seen adverts, etc. 2 2
Is closest to my home / are more in my local area 2 9
Less bureaucratic 1 3
I object in principle to private sector involvement in public services * 26
Other 3 10
Don't know 1 2

Q10 What, if anything, would encourage you to go to a private sector healthcare provider rather than the NHS — assuming the NHS covered all the costs of treatment?
Base: all who prefer NHS provider (330)

  %
Less time waiting for treatment 36
Higher standard of medical care 23
Cleanliness 19
Good reputation of consultants 16
High reputation of hospital 15
Higher operation success rates 13
If one was as close to home as my local NHS hospital 13
More flexible treatment (e.g. home care rather than long hospital stay) 8
More doctors / nurses 8
Having my own private room 8
Being treated with greater dignity and respect 7
Experience of friends / family 5
Better food 5
Option of alternative / complementary therapies 4
Receiving more information about private sector healthcare 4
Other 4
Nothing 23
Don't know 6

Awareness Of Providers

Q11 I am now going to read out the names of some healthcare providers. For each one, please tell me how well you feel you know them, if at all.

  Know very well Know a fair amount Know just a little Heard of but know nothing Never heard of
  % % % % %
BUPA 13 26 36 23 3
Nuffield 7 14 25 27 27
My local NHS hospital 37 41 18 3 1
BMI 1 4 11 20 65

Likelihood Of Using Provider

Q12 Assuming you needed treatment, please tell how likely you would be to consider using each of these healthcare providers, if you were given the choice of free treatment at any of them. Please also assume that high standards of care would apply at each.

  Very likely Fairly likely Not very likely Not at all likely Don't know
  % % % % %
My local NHS hospital 70 21 5 2 2
My local private hospital 55 27 10 4 4
A specialist NHS hospital, 30 miles away 47 35 12 4 3
An established private hospital 30 miles away 41 32 17 7 3
A new private treatment centre, 30 miles away, that guarantees high quality care within a month 46 30 14 6 3
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Client

Dept of Health

Jonathan Marron
Dept of Health
t: 020 7633 4009
w: www.dh.gov.uk

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