National survey shows that patients experienced good care in hospital during the pandemic, but long waiting times in the ED remain a problem

Date of publication:

The results of the 2021 National Inpatient Experience Survey have been launched today by Minister for Health, Stephen Donnelly TD. 

Most patients had a good experience in hospital, with 83% rating their experience of hospital care as ‘good’ or ‘very good’. The majority of survey participants said that they were always treated with respect and dignity, and that they were given enough privacy when being examined or treated. Patients also gave very high ratings of cleanliness, pain management and confidence and trust in hospital staff. 

Nevertheless, long waiting times in the emergency department remain a problem, with only 29% of people saying that they were admitted to a ward within the HSE’s target waiting time of six hours. Over 300 people (4%) said that they waited 48 hours or more to be admitted. Further areas needing improvement include the availability of emotional support, time to discuss care and treatment with a doctor, information on how to manage a condition after leaving hospital, and opportunities for family members to talk to a doctor.

The survey presented a unique opportunity to ask patients about their experiences of hospital care during a pandemic in Ireland. Most patients surveyed said that they did not feel at risk of contracting COVID-19 while in hospital; however, a number of participants said that they could not find a member of staff to talk to if they had worries or fears about COVID-19, and that they did not receive help to keep in touch with family members. Many patients expressed their appreciation of staff and the care they received, but missed being able to have visitors. Visiting restrictions posed particular challenges for patients with sensory, physical or cognitive impairments. 

Responding to the survey findings, Minister for Health, Stephen Donnelly TD said: “The National Inpatient Experience Survey is an important piece of work that ensures the patient voice is central to the delivery of a more person-centred health service. I would like to thank everyone who took part in the survey this year. The sustained high response rate shows that patients want to have their voices heard and share their collective stories.

“The 2021 survey results provide us with an understanding of patients’ experience of care during the pandemic for the first time. It is encouraging to see that patients continue to have positive experiences of being treated with dignity and respect and having confidence and trust in hospital staff.” 

“The survey findings also highlight that there is still room for improvement, and it is absolutely essential the health service listens and responds when patients share their experience. 

“2021 was another exceptionally challenging year for our frontline healthcare workers and hospital staff; they have continued to demonstrate their ongoing commitment and dedication to our patients throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. 

“We know that the most successful approach to building a safer, quality healthcare system is when the health service works together with patients and communities. The 2022 National Inpatient Experience Survey is now underway, and I would encourage people who are eligible to participate to do so.”

HIQA CEO Angela Fitzgerald said: “COVID-19 has had a profound impact on patients, staff and the provision of healthcare across the world. Despite the challenges presented by the pandemic and the disruptions it caused, most patients told us that they had positive experiences of care in hospital.

“The findings of the survey highlight how important it is to patients, and their family members, to have opportunities to talk to healthcare staff, to ask questions and to share their worries. The results also underline the critical role played by families in supporting patients. These are areas that HIQA will focus on during 2022.

“Upholding the principles of person-centred care and respecting an individual’s human rights are fundamental to the provision of high-quality healthcare and strongly relate to patients’ overall experience.” 

HSE CEO Paul Reid, said: “Learning is a core component of delivering safe and effective healthcare. We are constantly working to improve the patient experience through listening, responding and improving.

“The majority of survey participants said that they were always treated with respect and dignity in hospital. This is a tribute to our hospital staff, and patients gave very high ratings for trust and confidence in those staff. There is much to be proud of in our hospitals, but we must now learn from and act on the survey findings regarding long waiting times in emergency departments, limited emotional supports and the need for more information about managing a condition at home, and for opportunities for family members to talk to clinicians. 

“We will use the findings to continue to develop and implement quality improvement initiatives to improve the experience for patients.”

Two additional reports — on patients’ experiences of human rights-based care in hospital and of discharge from hospital — have also been published today. These, and the 2021 National Inpatient Experience Survey report, are available at  

To find out more about the results of the survey watch our short animation, and follow us on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook.


For further information please contact:
Marty Whelan, Head of Communications & Stakeholder Engagement, HIQA

085 8055202 

Notes to the editor

  • The National Inpatient Experience Survey offers patients the opportunity to describe their experiences of public acute healthcare in Ireland.
  • The aim of the survey is to find out from patients what is working well in our health service, and where improvements are necessary. The HSE responds to the survey findings by developing local and national initiatives to improve the quality of care provided to patients.
  • With 40 participating hospitals and 10,743 participants in 2021, it is the largest survey of its kind in Ireland. 
  • The annual survey usually takes place in May; however, due to the cyberattack on HSE IT systems, it was necessary to move the 2021 survey month to September.
  • The 2022 survey commenced on 1 May. All eligible participants will be contacted by post next month.
  • The survey questionnaire can be found here.
  • The National Inpatient Experience Survey is part of the National Care Experience Programme, a joint initiative by the Health Information and Quality Authority (HIQA), the Health Service Executive (HSE) and the Department of Health. The Programme also includes the National Nursing Home Experience Survey and the National Maternity Experience Survey, and is currently developing two additional surveys on end-of-life care and maternity bereavement care.
  • One of HIQA’s strategic objectives for the period 2022-2024 is to promote and protect equality and the human rights of people using health and social care services.