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Throwing the spotlight on the Friends and Family Test
In the first of a series of blogs we are running to coincide with the Friends and Family Test Spotlight Week, NHS England’s Director of Patient and Public Participation and Insight explains why we are focussing on this vital patient feedback:
When it comes to this important area of our work at NHS England, we are loud and proud and we make no apology for that.
NHS England is running a short national campaign this week to raise more awareness about the Friends and Family Test, a feedback opportunity that lets everyone have their say on healthcare services.
We have a national conference on patient insight in Leeds on Thursday and, at that event, we’re handing out awards to some of the providers who have had great initiatives that take account of their patients’ opinions. Expect to see local advertising and other activity in your local area too as our regional teams get involved, along with service providers and other partners such as local Healthwatch and patient groups.
Why do we think this is so important?
Any service needs to understand the people it serves and good organisations do this as a matter of course. Without this understanding the NHS has less chance of delivering care that is safe, effective and that is experienced positively.
To help us achieve this we must have insight into the needs, experiences and outcomes of the patients who use our services and of the staff who deliver them.
Insight does not come from a single source: from a single survey or patient story; from a one-off focus group or patient participation meeting. It’s about using a combination of sources to understand a number of different issues. Successful organisations would not conduct one survey once a year to understand their users. They use a range of methods but most importantly they ask the questions, “How do we use what we’ve learnt to improve?” This last question needs to be at the heart of what we do.
Insight is about people. It involves us all, as users of services or citizens with a responsibility to say what we want and how the NHS can do better; or as providers, clinicians and managers trying to deliver the highest quality healthcare the taxpayer can afford.
It is one of our chief means of evaluating what we should prioritise and how we can drive up the quality of every patient’s experience by learning what we are doing well and where we need to improve. It can tell us things that other performance data cannot, particularly about how people feel about hugely important issues such as dignity, compassion and respect.
The NHS has a duty to listen and respond to the people it serves. We must ensure that every voice counts.
That’s what our publicity drive this week is all about. There’ll be news on the website all this week about the various activities and we’ll have a daily blog on this subject too. Please help us by spreading the word about how important it is to make YOUR voice heard in the NHS.
- For more information about the Friends and Family Test in particular, see nhs.uk/friendsandfamily or, if you work in the NHS, you can find out more in the FFT section of this website.
Nobody doubts the value of patient feedback, but feedback data from multiple sources only really stand a chance of helping decisions when they are correlated in a meaningful way. Right now, we have – to my knowledge – at least 5 sources of patient feedback for my surgery: Friend & Family test; GP patient survey; Healthwatch; the surgery’s own annual survey; waiting room suggestion box. (The CQC inspection also collects patient feedback).The results are not correlated and sample sizes from each source are relatively small – only the GP patient survey and the surgery’s survey could yield anything statistically significant.
The Friends and Family Test is probably the least useful source. The responses are usually anonymous, preventing follow-up with individual patients. Moreover, the results are totally unauditable. The sad fact is that the Friends & Family test is yet another NHS Central source of additional bureaucracy, work and expense for the surgery, and certainly not a benefit. Rather than promoting it, at no doubt considerable expense, the NHS should drop it and use the savings to support front-line services.