Listening to patients’ experiences of their care – and to the views of the NHS staff who provide it – plays a crucial part in delivering services that are safe, effective and continuously improving.

Insight does not come from a single source: from a single survey, patient story, focus group or public meeting. It’s about using a combination of sources to understand a number of different issues and then to ask: “How do we use what we’ve found out – positive and negative – to improve the quality of every patient’s experience?”

Insight can tell us things that other performance data cannot, particularly about how people feel about hugely important issues such as dignity, compassion and respect.

At NHS England, this work is led by the Insight & Feedback Team, which sits alongside colleagues working on other aspects of patient participation.

National Insight Network

NHS England has set up a network of people interested in insight work across the NHS to improve awareness, information sharing and expertise. If you work in this field and want to join the network, or if you have any other queries about our work, please contact the Insight & Feedback Team at

What insight is already available?


When it comes to collecting patient-generated data, the NHS has long been a world leader. It was the first health system to launch national patient surveys – including the GP Patient Survey and the Cancer Patient Experience Survey – and each year we invite more than 2.25 million people to tell us about their experiences of care and treatment.

The information is published online so that it can be freely used by healthcare providers, commissioners of services, voluntary organisations, patient groups and individuals.

NHS England also oversees the NHS Staff Survey, which annually collects the opinions and experience of the full range of staff across the country, typically inviting almost three-quarters of a million people to take part.  This has now been running for 13 years, providing rich information on a range of care and organisational issues.

We also work closely with the Care Quality Commission on the surveys that it runs with patients using inpatient and outpatient services, ambulance services, maternity services and others.  For the first time, in 2014, a survey of children and young people’s experiences of care and treatment was added.

Friends and Family Test

Another major way to gather patient feedback is the Friends and Family Test (FFT), which was first introduced in April 2013 and, since April 2015, has been available to all patients at any time when they use many services across the NHS: at hospitals, when receiving community or mental healthcare, at their GP or dental practice or when they use ambulances and other patient transport.

It asks a simple question about whether patients would recommend the service to their friends and family and gives an opportunity to make comments.  The NHS routinely gains over a million pieces of patient feedback this way every month and there are many examples of services being improved as a result.

If you have questions about the FFT, please contact


Another national data collection which offers patient insight is Patient Reported Outcomes Measures (PROMs). Patients undergoing elective inpatient surgery for four common elective procedures – hip or knee replacement, varicose vein surgery or groin hernia surgery – are asked to complete questionnaires before and after their operations to assess improvement in health as perceived by the patients themselves. The data publication is broken down to trust level to allow both positive and negative “outliers” to be identified. If you have any questions about PROMs, please contact

Local insight work

Local organisations supplement these nationally-coordinated data collections with a wide range of insight-gathering activities designed to help them understand their patient populations, their experiences, outcomes and needs. There are huge amounts of qualitative data being collected across the system whether from focus groups or via Twitter.