NHS England has been carrying out a project to improve some areas of the way the Friends and Family Test works across the country, with a view to publishing refreshed FFT Guidance by April 2019.
Outline proposals for the work were initially given the green light by Chief Executive Simon Stevens and supported by the Department of Health.
The ambition is to ensure the FFT can be a more effective tool in gathering patient feedback that helps to drive local improvements in healthcare services.
It is almost four years since the two-year rollout of the FFT across NHS-funded services was completed. Since then patients have consistently been contributing about 1.2 million pieces of feedback every month, demonstrating the appetite of members of the public to tell staff what they are doing well and where improvements can be made, particularly where they give comments on their experience in addition to their rating.
There have been more than 60 million pieces of patient feedback from the Friends and Family Test. On average, nine out of ten people say they would recommend the service they used to their friends and family.
The national NHS Staff Survey tells us that more than half of NHS staff currently use patient feedback in improvement work in their own services and teams. Much of this will come from the Friends and Family Test as we know that many providers share their FFT findings and patient comments with staff at ward level.
This focus on patient experience provides an opportunity for improvement in big ways and small ways. We have seen many examples over the years, from initiatives for quieter wards at night and improving the dining experience through to initiatives to dramatically reduce patient fasting times before operations and projects to enhance end-of-life care for both dying patients and their loved ones:
Think Drink – How patient feedback reduced patient fasting times before surgery
How feedback is helping to improve End of Life Care
We believe the Friends and Family Test has been particularly valuable in the following ways:
- Putting patient experience on the map where previously it hadn’t been
- Giving everyone a voice in a way the national surveys don’t
- Supporting staff in reinforcing the good job they do
- Giving staff evidence on where changes need to be made
- Providing swifter and more granular data than the surveys, which is particularly important at a time of major change such as in primary care at the moment.
We don’t want to lose those benefits so it’s not an option to stop.
However, since the beginnings of the FFT, providers and commissioners have pointed out the aspects of the initiative that do not work so well. Many changes have been made, or gaps filled, but we felt that the experience of using the FFT across all settings over the past four years highlighted a number of key areas where it could be more effective.
These have centred on:
- Exploring a more effective question
- Supporting services to make the most of what it can give them as a local service improvement tool
- Removing the burden in meeting some of the specifics in the guidance (such as the 48 hour rule for acute trusts and the fixed “touchpoints” across maternity care)
- Supporting the best possible use of the data.
During the project, particularly over the summer and autumn of 2018, there were opportunities for healthcare professionals, patients, voluntary organisations and representative bodies to feed in and the emerging options were be tested in healthcare settings and a range of stakeholders. In all, more than 1300 people have been engaged in the process.
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Latest news from the project
The work to inform revised guidance on the Friends and Family Test has recently been completed. This follows extensive engagement with more than 1300 stakeholders – healthcare professionals, FFT suppliers and patients – to identify ways to make it a stronger tool to support local service improvement and to increase the FFT’s accessibility to all services users.
The final phase was formal research and cognitive testing of some possible options by Ipsos MORI, and the findings have now been delivered. Their independent report on this work is being prepared for publication.
Conclusions and recommendations from the nine-month-long FFT Development Project have been submitted to NHS England’s Chief Executive, Simon Stevens, and he will consider whether a sufficiently strong case has been made for changing the current FFT requirements. Once a decision has been made, we will let providers and commissioners know. In the event that any changes are to be made, we will also provide a timetable for implementation. Revised guidance will be published by the end of April.