The NHS Friends and Family Test has reached a memorable milestone by gathering its five millionth piece of feedback from patients.
Launched less than two years ago in April 2013, FFT has allowed millions of patients to give invaluable feedback on their experiences of care and treatment in services throughout the NHS.
It has quickly grown into the biggest ever collection of patient opinion in any health service anywhere in the world and gives staff the ability to react promptly and make swift and lasting improvements to care provided.
Tim Kelsey, NHS England’s National Director for Patients and Information, said: “The Friends and Family Test is a big success story, providing us with real time feedback that allows us to react quickly to the needs and wishes of patients.
“The fact that we have gathered five million pieces of feedback in such a short period of time shows how effective it is – and it has led to genuine improvements to services wherever it has been used.”
He added: “Not only has the FFT been a step forward in terms of transparency and openness, but it has been a real game changer in terms of the NHS getting better at listening to patients and doing something about what they say.
“The FFT creates a direct conversation and gives staff the opportunity to respond quickly to what they are being told. Patients can also use the information to see what others are saying about services. This public participation is leading to the design of better services.”
The Test was first announced by the Prime Minister in January 2012 and means patients have a real voice in deciding whether their care is good enough or not – with hospitals and other services able to take swift action to make necessary improvements.
Health Minister Earl Howe said: “The Friends and Family Test has now had over five million responses. This is a fantastic achievement and gives us a great insight into the NHS – where things are going well and where things need improving.
“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.”
The FFT was first introduced to A&E and inpatient services and has since been rolled out to GPs, maternity, mental health and community services and to NHS staff, with plans for more services to follow from April 1 this year.
Examples of improvements to services prompted by feedback from FFT include:
- In Wessex, a GP practice taking part in an FFT pilot last year responded to patient feedback about there not being enough appointments by extending evening surgeries, creating an extra 1300 slots per year but they also used it as an opportunity to remind patients about the high number of lost appointments caused by patients failing to turn up (28 doctor appointments and 23 nurse appointments in one month alone).
- Buckinghamshire Healthcare NHS Trust put in place a whole range of changes last year based on what their patients said about their hospital stays. These included installing wi-fi around the site so that patients could entertain themselves and stay in contact with their family and friends via social media; extending visiting hours for patients’ partners; buying a special chair to ensure stroke victims with poor upper body tone can still use the showers; buying reclining chairs for the comfort of relatives who need to stay overnight with a very sick patient; taking on more staff with expertise in breast-feeding to help new mothers with initial difficulties; adding details of the daily ward routine to patient information packs so that inpatients know what to expect; and creating posters showing patients what the different uniforms on the wards mean so that they can more easily identify staff.
- Leicestershire Partnership NHS Trust listened to a suggestion from a visually impaired patient who used their community services and told them that tinted drinking glasses instead of clear ones would be much easier to see. The Trust now plans to order only tinted glasses as replacements are needed.
- In Cumbria, the Clinical Commissioning Group and local health trusts found that the FFT helped them to improve services for children and young people. Feedback told them that children using A&E felt vulnerable because of the presence of “adults who are drunk and keep shouting” so they are reviewing their waiting area layouts to try to create areas where young patients feel safer and more comfortable. Children also told them about particular areas of the hospitals where the staff seemed less child-friendly and the trusts have provided training to help those staff improve their interactions with younger patients.
- At Hillingdon Hospital in London, patients staying in hospital commented about noise on the wards at night-time disturbing their rest. The management launched a “Comfort at night” campaign among staff which resulted in wards having lights out or dimmed at night, extra pillows and blankets being readily available, the purchase of silent-closing waste bins, ensuring that staff wear quiet shoes and explaining to patients beforehand if they are likely to be awakened in the night for medication or checks.
Other examples of improvements have included responding to patient comments about food quality, ward temperatures, waiting times and making appointments.
However, most FFT feedback has been overwhelmingly positive across healthcare organisations and many of them report that it has provided an unexpected boost to staff morale and created ongoing opportunities to reinforce good practice and give well deserved pats on the back to staff who have demonstrated excellent patient care.