Confidence and trust in clinicians

Trust and confidence are key components of the clinician-patient relationship. There are many benefits which may accrue from a trusting relationship, including open communication of information, improved adherence to medical advice, improvement of health outcomes and better patient experience.

The national patient experience surveys ask service users whether they have confidence and trust in the doctors, nurses and other clinicians treating them.

How do patients' confidence and trust in clinicians compare across NHS services?

A number of national patient surveys ask service users whether they had confidence and trust in clinicians. It is useful to compare people's responses to understand how patient experience varies across NHS services.

In 2017, 80% of Adult Inpatient Survey respondents stated that they always had confidence and trust in the doctors treating them. This compares to 66% of GP Patient Survey respondents who said that they definitely had confidence and trust in the GP that they last saw or spoke to in 2017. 

82% of Maternity Services Survey respondents reported that they definitely had confidence and trust in the staff caring for them during their labour and birth. Parents with children aged 15 and under who had been admitted to hospital answered questions in the Children and Young People's Survey, and 79% of them said that they always had confidence and trust in the members of staff treating their child. 75% of Emergency Department Survey respondents who had attended type 1 departments stated that they definitely had confidence and trust in the doctors and nurses examining and treating them, however 6% did not.

The differences in responses between the surveys may reflect the demographics of respondents, as well as experience of services.  For example, older people tend to respond more positively in surveys, and a higher proportion of inpatients are in older age groups compare with maternity service users.

Updated June 2018.

How have inpatients' confidence and trust in the doctors and nurses treating them changed over time?

Adult Inpatient Survey respondents are asked if they had confidence and trust in the doctors and nurses treating them. The proportion of respondents who stated that they always had confidence and trust in the doctors treating them is consistently slightly higher than the proportion who always had confidence and trust in the nurses.

Between 2012 and 2017, there was a gradual improvement of inpatients' confidence and trust in the doctors and nurses treating them. In 2012, 78% of respondents stated that they always had confidence and trust in the doctors treating them, and this increased to 80% in 2017. Similarly, 75% of respondents said that they always had confidence and trust in the nurses treating them in 2012, and this increased to 78% in 2017. The proportion of respondents who did not have confidence and trust in the doctors and nurses treating them remained between 3% and 4%.

Updated June 2018.

How have patients' confidence and trust in GPs and nurses changed over time?

GP Patient Survey respondents are asked if they had confidence and trust in the last GP and the last nurse they saw or spoke to. Confidence and trust is higher in nurses than GPs across all years. In 2017, 72% of respondents 'definitely' had confidence and trust in the last nurse they saw or spoke to, but only 66% of respondents 'definitely' had confidence and trust in the last GP they saw or spoke to.

Between 2012 and 2017, the proportion of respondents who had confidence and trust in the last GP and the last nurse they saw or spoke to decreased slightly (by 1% to 2%), and the proportion who had no confidence and trust increased slightly. Note that those who responded "don't know/can't say" have been excluded for comparison purposes. A greater proportion of respondents answered "don't know/can't say" to whether they had confidence and trust in the last nurse they saw or spoke to (13%) compared to the last GP they saw or spoke to (4%). This may be because people generally have more contact with GPs compared to nurses when they visit their GP sugery.

Updated June 2018.

About this data

These indicators draw on data from the Adult Inpatient Survey, the GP Patient Survey, the Children and Young People's Survey, the Emergency Department Survey, the Maternity Services Survey and the Community Mental Health Survey.

For each CQC survey, two weights were applied to the survey results data: a trust weight to ensure that each trust contributes equally to the England average, and a population weight, to make sure each trusts results are representative of their own sample and do not over represent groups such as older respondents. A combination of the two weights resulted in one single weighting which was applied to enable comparisons between years. Note that data from the most recent survey publications were used for comparison.

Our comparison across NHS services did not adjust for differences in survey populations; therefore, the results may not be directly comparable. For more information please see NHS England, National Patient and Staff Surveys.

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