Clear communication, delivered in a format a patient prefers, lies at the heart of delivering quality care and ensuring positive patient experiences. 

Unfortunately, poor NHS communication has become a significant source of frustration and dissatisfaction for patients and staff alike.


Recent polling by the think-tank Demos, which the Patients Association supported, revealed that over half of the population (55%) had experienced poor NHS communication in the past five years. 

These issues showed up in various ways, from difficulty navigating the system and understanding who to contact, to administrative errors leading to inaccurate or conflicting information about care and treatment.

The consequences of poor communication are far-reaching. It undermines the patient experience, endangers safety, negatively impacts mental health, and increases the burden on already overworked healthcare staff. 

Alarmingly, 11% of respondents in the survey reported that their care or treatment had been affected by administrative or IT errors, and 18% didn't know who to contact after receiving a referral.

Separate data collected by Healthwatch England suggests more than two million people may have missed medical appointments in 2022-23 due to the late delivery of letters.


As the Demos report shows, communication should not be seen as a ‘nice to have’, but as fundamental to the functioning of the NHS.

Poor communication is not only a practical concern but also a matter of trust and confidence in the NHS. When individuals experience communication failures, it erodes their trust in the system, raises concerns about the quality of care, and fuels worries about the potential waste of resources and staff time.

That’s why we’re calling on the next Government to deliver genuine two-way communication between patients and the NHS. This can be done by doing the following:

  1. Patients should have ownership of and easy access to their medical information. This will improve transparency and make it possible for them to monitor their treatment and raise any concerns.
  2. Increase the number of care coordinators and navigators to support patients with complex needs, ensuring they have a dedicated advocate to help them access the care they require.
  3. Establish clear and accessible ways for patients to express concerns and provide feedback across all healthcare settings. Ways to feedback must be actively promoted so patients and carers know about them.
  4. Look at how the sharing of patient information between services can be improved. Better sharing will support joined up care that wraps around the patient.
  5. Improve how the NHS handles patient complaints to ensure they are appropriately addressed and resolved, fostering a culture where concerns are heard and acted upon.


Effective two-way communication is not just a matter of good manners; it is a fundamental part of a well-functioning healthcare system. By prioritising open dialogue, active listening, and seamless information sharing, the system can empower patients, ease the pressure on NHS staff, and play an important role in restoring the public’s level of satisfaction in the NHS.

Support our demand to put two-way communication at the forefront of healthcare reform. Together, we can build a system that truly listens to and serves the needs of its patients, paving the way for better outcomes and increased satisfaction. 

Read our manifesto