Conference season is coming to an end. So we’re calling for political parties to give people a more powerful voice in public services. But also to offer public service choice, and make sure these services meet people’s needs.
Our research has discovered mixed impacts for recent policies that are supposed to give people more public service choice and a greater say.
Even when people do have a choice, in most cases they don’t base their decision on information about the quality of services.
Public service choice
We found that only one in five people think about quality when choosing a service. Interestingly, people most often go to friends and family to help them decide. Location is by far the most important factor. This means people are unlikely to move around if they’re unhappy with a service.
A new initiative was launched by NHS Choices last month offering ‘open data for better services’. The idea is, you can see a number of different details to help choose your hospital or adult social services.
In the hospital category, you can see Care Quality Commission ratings alongside reviews of staff and a friends and family test score. NHS England Medical Director, Sir Bruce Keogh, says that service is committed to:
‘Making sure information about the quality of our services is available and accessible to all. Making information readily available in one place allows people to hold us to account, not just for the amount of money we spend providing care but for how it is spent and what it delivers for the public.’
Making this available is a good start. But more needs to be done to make these kind of data sets easier to access and more useful. But could information like this influence the decisions you make?
Quality of care homes
We know people recognise that quality of services does vary. For example, 67% think there is a big difference in the quality of care homes. However, people feel much less confident about how to tell what a quality service looks like. Only 56% of GP users and 57% of hospital users know what ‘good’ should look like from their provider.
If public services are to be truly responsive to the people using them, people need to talk about their experiences.
With the general election approaching, all parties should commit to giving people a more powerful voice in public services. To put people in control of their decisions.
We need to see meaningful quality data that’s easy to grasp. This will help people feel more confident about their choice, alongside services that encourage and act on feedback.