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Communication and administration

We work to highlight and reduce the administrative burden placed on individuals using health and care services, driven by poor communications and a lack of joined-up care, especially for those with multiple long-term conditions.

Our Stance 

At National Voices we work hard with our members and Lived Experience Partners to identify the cross-cutting issues that affect those accessing health and care services, particularly people living with health conditions, disability and health inequalities.  

Poor communication and administration, and the adverse effects of this is one of the most common themes we encounter. What we are hearing from our members is that people are having to chase test results and follow-up appointments far more than in the past. 

If we want to win back people’s trust in the NHS and support people to manage their own health and care we must get the basics right. This needs to start with improving administrative processes – it is not good enough that people are unable to get through on phone lines, navigate poorly designed websites or that they receive letters in the wrong format or to the wrong address. 

These challenges are fixable without the need for huge extra investment and, compared to some of the other issues faced by the NHS, solutions can be implemented very quickly that would benefit millions of people every year.  

When accessing NHS and social care services, you should expect the following: 

  • Administrative processes that are clear and easy to navigate
  • To be able to communicate, and be communicated with, in a way and at a time that suits you
  • Administrative processes that are accessible to your specific needs

Our Work 

National Voices first explored the issue of admin processes in 2020/21 in a joint project with the King’s Fund and Healthwatch England. Our report – Paper Works: the critical role of administration in quality care – showed how administration is a gatekeeper and enabler for quality care, but when these processes go wrong it is not just an inconvenience but can prevent people from getting the vital support they need to live their lives. 

Admin has always been a prominent theme, and is a key component of our Patient Adjective Noun report – Patient Noun Adjective: understanding the experience of waiting for care – on how to support people whilst they wait for elective care, through to our more recent vision for primary care which helped to significantly shape NHS England’s Primary Care Recovery Plan around addressing some of these common frustrations.   

Our report for the NHS 75 celebrations also strongly highlighted the need for better communications and admin and we were pleased to see the NHS Assembly recognise this front and centre in their report, which looks at priorities for the future of the NHS.  

We have clearly heard from patients that they can accept the NHS is under immense pressure, but they want to know how long they may wait for appointments and to trust the NHS to do what it says it will. In support of patients, we will continue to advocate for better communication and administrative processes with a range of stakeholders across the Department of Health and Social Care, NHS England, integrated care systems (ICSs) and political parties. 

Our Asks 

  1. Value admin roles: We urge the government to consider administrative and support needs when developing new policy. For example, whilst we broadly welcomed the Long-Term Workforce Plan, the fact it does not properly consider the needs for more admin and support staff in non-clinical roles is a glaring omission, especially as these roles can be hired and developed relatively easily to answer immediate workforce pressures.
  2. Map needs: NHS England, social care services and ICSs must map out in more detail the admin and management roles needed to support the additional clinical workforce outlined in its workforce plan.
  3. Access: NHS and social care services must fully implement the updated Accessible Information Standard, without which we risk excluding millions of people with additional communication needs.
  4. Communicate: Frontline professionals must communicate with patients in plain English, avoid acronyms and take on board access requirements.
  5. Translators: We must stop people having to break devastating health news to their own family members by ensuring translation services are available in a timely and reliable manner. 
  6. Trust: Getting the basics right on admin and communication is an essential step towards rebuilding trust in communities. Good work happened during the pandemic to establish more trusting relationships with communities, often through trusted intermediaries, and this work must not be lost. To build on this, the NHS must not engage with people on its own terms but rather meet people were they are and listen to community concerns.

Work with us

If this is a topic that is of interest to you and you would like to explore how we might contribute our insights and expertise to your work, we would love to hear from you. We offer consultancy and can design focus groups, roundtables, coaching and workshops to organisations who share our vision for more person-centred and equitable health and care. You can find out more here.

This page was last reviewed in December 2023.