Getting smarter about patient insight

In the latest of our series of blogs marking Friends and Family Test Spotlight Week, NHS England’s Head of Insight and Feedback explains the importance of understanding and using patient feedback:

The NHS is a world leader when it comes to collecting insight and feedback from its users.

We have a number of excellent national surveys that ask patients and staff about their experiences of the NHS and allow us to track our progress over time. We have a real-time feedback tool available across most NHS-funded services, the Friends and Family Test (FFT), which has collected more than 17 million ratings of services from patients over the past three years, as well as providing a rich seam of free-text comments to provide explanations and suggestions about how services can get even better.

In addition to the national programme there is great work being done at a local level to collect user and patient feedback. It’s an incredible amount of insight on the experience patients have of the healthcare we provide and what they think is important.

However, collecting the data is not enough; we need to be better at understanding it, interpreting it and most importantly acting upon what it tells us. Put simply, the NHS needs to be better at listening and acting on the insight and feedback we gather.

Almost 300 people with a keen interest in how the NHS uses this valuable patient insight will gather in Leeds today for a one-day conference to address this challenge. The event is partly a celebration of how newer tools, such as the FFT, are transforming the service improvement agenda across services, showcasing some of the providers who are going the extra mile to listen to the people who use their services.

However, it’s also a first step along a new road, a purposeful new direction. Our destination is a place where all of the data that’s available, whether collected nationally or locally, has a critical role in informing how we deliver care. Any service needs to understand the people it serves. Without this understanding the NHS has less chance of delivering care that is safe, effective and is experienced positively.

We need to move to a place where insight and feedback are central to the business of the NHS – used as routinely as other data on the quality of care. Decisions at a local and national level need to be informed by and reflect what matters to our patients, staff and service users. Insight data needs to be available to all from senior management, to frontline staff to patients and the public and it must be presented in accessible and transparent ways.

Perhaps most importantly insight data has a key role to play in supporting patients’ empowerment in their health and their use of healthcare services.

Is such a place unreachable?

We don’t think so. NHS England is committed to helping and supporting the NHS to move towards exactly that and, at our conference today, I’ll be setting out our route map for achieving this and asking delegates to join networks that will help us, collectively, to get there.

  • Look out for more information on this website about our insight work. If you couldn’t be at today’s conference but want to be part of our insight networks as we move forward, get in touch to let us know. Write to


Dan Wellings

Dan Wellings leads NHS England’s Insight and Feedback Team, which oversees how the NHS collects experience and outcome data from patients, including national surveys such as CPES. Prior to joining NHS England, Dan was Head of Public Health Research at Ipsos MORI, working in the Social Research Institute. Dan has a Masters in Public Health from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine and is a Senior Associate of the Nuffield Trust.

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One comment

  1. Pearl Baker says:

    As a Carer and ‘expert by experience’ i would like to put forward an example of how you could get Carers better engaged in D O H Carers Survey.

    I would first refer to a GP Practice meeting, where interested patients were invited. This meeting was to speak about the problems the Practice in GP recruitment, and how it will effect their patients waiting times, including emergency appointments via a Receptionist? We were small in number, how to inform others?

    I receive email alerts from many organisations, essential for my work in providing Mental Health Advocacy and Advisory.

    My suggestion is first all GP Surgeries receive email alerts on various Surveys, i e D O H Carers Survey, this will be put onto GP MONITORS in the Surgery, patients will be able to view how they can respond to the survey.

    I would also suggest (not well received) that patients willing to provide Email address could be given a regular update on their GP Practice problems, (only a very few attended the meeting) and other Government Consultations and Surveys. via email contact, and monitors in GP Surgeries.

    As i previously stated i receive emails from the D O H, Parliamentary (hansard) on Health and Social Care, Judiciary, CCGs, Housing,Welfare Benefits are just a few.

    If you are serious about engaging the PUBLIC you have to look at the ‘bigger’ picture.

    GPs are the ‘gateway’ to services, make it the ‘Gateway’ to the ‘wider’ picture.

    Carer and Independent Mental Health Advocate and Adviser in my 31st year. (unfunded)

    My experience very few patients i speak to are aware of the ‘Friends and Family ‘feedback’.GPs could have these on their desks when Consulting with their patient.

    I will give you an example of what occurred when a GP visited a 98 year old man, living alone. A very nice GP, prescribed antibiotics, the problem being he had no prescription pad with him? the son had to wait until he had completed his round, (four patients) visit the surgery, and then take the prescription to a pharmacist, return to his father, then drive twenty miles home.

    My suggestion would be! GP ask where is your nearest pharmacy? either contact the surgery to electronically prescribe to chosen pharmacist, or have the appropriate device with him. This is not ‘Rocket’ science.