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Friends and family test “unreliable” quality measure


1 July 2014

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The Friends and Family test is an “unreliable” performance management measure, researchers have claimed.

Differing collection methods and demographic factors can skew the data, making meaningful comparisons between organisations impossible, researchers from The Picker Institute argue.

The paper, which was published in the Journal of Health Services Research & Policy investigated the impact of patients’ age, sex and the way the survey is carried out.

There were significant differences in the way people respond when different methods are used.

Chris Graham, director of research and policy at Picker Institute Europe said: “The Friends and Family Test was originally intended to be a single measure of healthcare quality: a simple means of assessing and comparing services, allowing patients to make informed choices, and driving improvements. But whilst the widespread roll-out of the test is impressive, our research shows that it does not match these ambitions.

“The Friends and Family Test simply cannot be used as a reliable performance measure – and nor should patients use scores from the test to choose their hospital. However, our experience and feedback from NHS trusts shows that patient comments collected via the Friends and Family Test are proving useful for identifying improvements locally.

“We should celebrate this success and focus on making best use of these comments rather than counting recommendations.”

The results have been published weeks before the official NHS England review into the process, which is expected to be accompanied by revised guidance on the data collection methods used and the purpose of the test in general.

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