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As the Friends and Family Test is rolled out to GP practices from today, Dr Mo Dewji, NHS England’s National Clinical lead for Primary Care and advisor on FFT, explains why patient feedback is a boon and not a burden:
As every GP knows, the festive season is a time when many practices take stock of the year that has passed. This is a mix of the partners’ meetings, clinical forums, the staff party and feedback directly from our patients and their carers.
From the start of December we have been collecting data from the Friends and Family Test (FFT).
As a GP I’m aware of how easy it is to feel bombarded with data, numbers and even more of a workload burden at a time when many GPs are feeling as if there is too much on our plates. While working with the FFT team, I was keen that this didn’t end up as another item that added unnecessarily to this pressure.
As a practice we have a facility for every patient to have the opportunity to provide feedback on their encounter with us. What has been clear from the first day, is that by working closely with the pilot practices and GPs, the BMA, the RCGP, CQC, Patient representatives, NAPC, NHS Alliance as well as Regional Leads, everyone could see the value of FFT. At the same time one and all wanted to make the process simple, have maximum flexibility and to ensure that the knowledge gained is about the care for the patients rather than about league tables.
Following the publication of the guidance jointly between NHS England and the GPC, work has been focussed to support practices. A self-reported “readiness survey” has shown the vast majority of practices feeling able to collect, collate and report the data gained from their patients.
Materials such as posters, a video and presentation for waiting rooms, as well as links to support organisations, have been made available. The materials are there to support the flexibility on how data can be collected – a major priority for every practice.
The way the data is reported has also been simplified to calculate and present the FFT results as a percentage of the respondents who would or would not recommend the services to their friends and family, making it clearer for staff and for patients.
However simple and flexible the process, there was one question that I needed answered by the pilot practices and other service areas where FFT was already in place: does it actually give you anything more that helps you as a GP and improves care for your patients? The answer has been a clear “Yes” – and positive feedback from patients saying how they would recommend the service they have received helps morale and team dynamics.
What has been found to have been ever more helpful is the supplementary question. The free text is often more complementary and practical suggestions and help from engaged patients far outweighs an increased workload in collecting the information in the first place.
Like any new change, even allowing for feedback from pilot practices, my own practice like yours will find it a challenge to begin with. In time the learning will come.
However, just as we will be looking at the feedback from our patients, the regional offices and central FFT team will be keen to learn and make changes to FFT where appropriate – either to general practice or to where it is already live – such as hospitals – or in its roll out to dentists, mental health and community services.
With that can I invite one and all to do this via the FFT helpdesk at: firstname.lastname@example.org.