More than one million Friends and Family Tests completed in just six months

More than one million individual pieces of feedback have been collected through the Friends and Family Test (FFT) in just six months, driving the patient voice into the heart of the NHS to improve services.

Today’s publication of the latest FFT results show that between April and October 2013 a total of 1,176,562 surveys have been completed in England. A total of 112,659 people responded in April, and the monthly response rate has increased every month since then. In October, the number of responses per month topped 200,000 for the first time, with 206,231 patients taking part.

Under the FFT, hospital trusts ask all inpatients and A&E patients to answer the question: “How likely are you to recommend our service to friends and family if they needed similar care or treatment?” Results of the test, down to the level of individual wards and units, are published online every month on the NHS England and NHS websites.

The real strength of the Friends and Family Test is its power to trigger hospitals to take immediate action on real-time feedback as they are asked to invite patients to give more detail on their views, and make suggestions for improvements. This extra information is not published, but is being used by hospitals to identify and make small changes that have big effects on their patients’ time in hospital.

In one example, at Hillingdon Hospitals NHS Trust in Middlesex, patients reported that there was too much light and noise at night. A “comfort at night” campaign has since been launched, with a variety of measures from changing waste bins to “silent closing” models and setting standard times for dimming lights, to new protocols ensuring patients are warned and prepared in advance of any need to awake and take medication overnight.

And at Lewisham Hospital NHS Trust, London, analysis of responses showed that communication and staff attitude were key themes. The Trust introduced a patient experience action plan, with additional training and new initiatives including planned daily visits for each patient from a nurse who introduces themselves and explains all the treatments and assessments they will be receiving that day.

Lewisham Hospital has also introduced its own additional programme to gather detailed information on patients’ experiences, with in-depth interviews of up to 150 patients per month.

Tim Kelsey, NHS England Director of Patients and Information, said

“One million individual pieces of patient feedback in just six months is a fantastic achievement and a huge milestone for the NHS. In its earliest stages, covering just inpatients wards and A&Es, the NHS Friends and Family Test is already the biggest ever collection of patient views. It is now being rolled out to other parts of the NHS, with maternity services already taking part and GP practices due to begin next year, to give a rounded picture of how people feel about their different health services.

“Hospitals are really taking this to their hearts, and we have heard excellent examples of how the Friends and Family Test is acting as a catalyst for change, driven by patient power.”

The Secretary of State for Health, the Rt Hon Jeremy Hunt MP, said: “We have already seen some fantastic improvements simply from hospitals listening and acting on patients’ feedback.  With over a million patient comments now collected using this test, I hope we will see real patient power unleashed across the NHS.  By making these ratings public we’re giving patients the power to choose the best place for their care – and driving hospitals to raise their game.”

Tim Kelsey has written to all NHS providers to outline the next steps on the Friends and Family Test (this document is no longer available here but can be found on the National Archives website)– including information on NHS England’s plans to review the operational processes underpinning the FFT – and to thank all involved for their part in continuing to ensure that patients’ voices are both heard and acted upon.