Good environments matter. Every NHS patient should be cared for with compassion and dignity in a clean, safe environment. Where standards fall short, they should be able to draw it to the attention of managers and hold the service to account. PLACE assessments will provide motivation for improvement by providing a clear message, directly from patients, about how the environment or services might be enhanced.
April 2013 saw the introduction of PLACE, which is the system for assessing the quality of the patient environment, replacing the old Patient Environment Action Team (PEAT) inspections. The assessments primarily apply to hospitals and hospices providing NHS-funded care in both the NHS and private/independent sectors but others are also encouraged and helped to participate in the programme.
The assessments involve local people (known as Patient Assessors) going into hospitals as part of teams to assess how the environment supports the provision of clinical care, assessing such things as privacy and dignity, food, cleanliness and general building maintenance and, more recently, the extent to which the environment is able to support the care of those with dementia. From 2016 the assessment will also look as aspects of the environment in relation to those with disabilities.
Recruitment and training of patient assessors is the responsibility of those organisations undertaking assessments.
The assessments take place every year, and results are published to help drive improvements in the care environment. The results show how hospitals are performing both nationally and in relation to other hospitals providing similar services.
It should be noted however that the assessment focuses exclusively on the environment in which care is delivered and does not cover clinical care provision or how well staff are doing their job.