‘What’s it like being in a hospital waiting room?’ investigates people’s experiences of waiting in the following hospitals:

  • Birmingham Children’s Hospital (Birmingham Women’s and Children’s NHS Foundation Trust)
  • Birmingham City Hospital (Sandwell and West Birmingham Hospitals NHS Trust)
  • Birmingham Dental Hospital (Birmingham Community Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust)
  • Birmingham and Midland Eye Centre (Sandwell and West Birmingham NHS Trust)
  • Birmingham Women’s Hospital (Birmingham Women’s and Children’s NHS Foundation Trust)
  • Good Hope Hospital (University Hospitals Birmingham NHS Foundation Trust)
  • Heartlands Hospital (University Hospitals Birmingham NHS Foundation Trust)
  • Queen Elizabeth Hospital Birmingham (University Hospitals Birmingham NHS Foundation
  • The Royal Orthopaedic Hospital (Royal Orthopaedic Hospital NHS Foundation Trust) 
By Healthwatch Birmingham

Our findings

  • In the majority of hospitals, we found that waiting times, particularly in accident and emergency departments, are too long.
  • In some instances, patients reported that waiting areas were overcrowded and seating was
    uncomfortable; factors made worse by long waiting times.
  • The experiences of people with a disability were less positive than for those without.
    For example, cramped waiting rooms in one hospital made access in a wheelchair difficult, and
    problems with parking in another meant that patients with mobility problems had to walk long
  • In a majority of these hospitals, patients had problems accessing refreshments, especially at
    busy times and in accident and emergency departments.
  • Several patients said that there was a lack of consistent and accessible signage.
  • We found that in all but one hospital, the systems for calling people for their appointments did
    not meet the needs of patients, particularly those with hearing and/or visual impairments.
  • The British Sign Language (BSL) interpreter booking system is not working for some patients.
    Although some reported good experiences, the majority of patients who used interpretation
    services, across most of these hospitals, told us that interpretation services are difficult to
    arrange, unreliable and do not take into account appointment delays, meaning that interpreters sometimes leave part-way through an appointment.
  • Some communication is good, but this is inconsistent across the hospitals, and it does not
    always taken into account patients’ needs or preferences.

Healthwatch Birmingham made recommendations to each Trust, based on the issues heard. Six months later we tracked the progress of these improvements by requesting an update from the Trust which evaluates the specific changes made to improve patient’s experiences.

What's it like being in a hospital waiting room? Download File (pdf 5.90 MB)

Our report highlights that people’s overall views about a hospital can be impacted by their experiences of waiting areas. As our investigation shows there is good practice happening, but improvements need to be made to ensure services are disability aware, staff fully trained and hospitals accessible to all patients. This is particularly important for people with sight or hearing impairments, where hospitals rooms can be a stressful and disorienting environment.  - Andy Cave, Chief Executive, Healthwatch Birmingham