Making NHS patient feedback more inclusive

Updated guidance has been published to help make the NHS’s biggest patient feedback tool, the Friends and Family Test, more inclusive.

The new guidance covers services across the NHS that are provided to children and young people – with special provisions for looked after children – as well as patients with learning disabilities, dementia, language and literacy issues or patients who are deaf or deafblind.

Since the FFT guidance was originally published in July last year, promoting a standard feedback question for all patients, a number of providers have fed back on using it on healthcare’s frontline with patients in particular groups.

Much of the feedback was positive but they also voiced some concerns, which included:

  • concerns about any distress/upset being caused to patients due to the way in which the standard FFT question can be interpreted by some of these patient groups;
  • the burden on NHS staff in spending time explaining the standard question to patients in these groups;
  • the variation in supplementary information given within and across organisations as providers tried to adapt the standard question to meet the needs of their patients.

The programme team who oversee the FFT across England have listened to these points and looked at the good practice and evidence put forward.  This has resulted in revised guidance, recently published on the NHS England website, to allow new variations of the standard FFT question and the way it is presented to make it more accessible.

Tim Kelsey, National Director for Patients and Information, said: “It is important to get this right so that the NHS hears from all patients about the services they have experienced and how they can be improved.  Patients in these particular groups are important and often regular users of healthcare services and their voices need to be heard as much as everyone else’s. We’re keen that healthcare providers continue to give us feedback on how well this is working.”

The changes in the updated guidance on making the FFT inclusive should be implemented from October 2015 but may be used before this by organisations that are ready.

To help providers to implement it, the guidance includes many examples of good practice and also links to resources they can use, such as materials for children and easy-read feedback material for people with learning difficulties.

The FFT guidance is fully compatible with NHS England’s new Accessible Information Standard.

The Standard aims to ensure that people who have a disability, impairment or sensory loss receive information that they can access and understand – for example in large print, braille or via email – and professional communication support if they need it, for example from a British Sign Language interpreter. By law, this must be followed by all NHS services and adult social care providers from 31 July.

Since the FFT was launched in April 2013, it has been rolled out in stages to cover most of the NHS in England.  To date, 8.3 million pieces of feedback have been collated.