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NHS England announces changes to key question in Friends and Family Test

NHS England announces changes to key question in Friends and Family Test
By Valeria Fiore Reporter
12 July 2019

NHS England’s flagship patient feedback tool will be modified next year, with patients no longer being asked if they would recommend the service to their family or friends.

The feedback tool’s key question, ‘How likely are you to recommend our service to friends and family if they needed similar care or treatment?’ will be scrapped from April 2020, following feedback from stakeholders that it should be ‘clearer and more accessible’.

The changes follow ‘extensive consultation and research’ during which 1300 stakeholders were consulted, according to a letter from NHS England and Improvement director of experience, participation and equalities Dr Neil Churchill, published on 10 July.

The new question – which NHS England tested with a broad range of people ‘including children down to the age of eight’ – will ask ‘Overall, how was your experience of our service?’ and will be matched with six possible answers. When it was first announced in 2013, the test was criticised by healthcare experts for asking the wrong question and in 2017, some GPs pushed for the BMA to lobby to scrap the test as it gave no attention to the ‘dire challenges facing general practice’.

Most NHS services, including GP practices, currently allow patients to complete the FTT anytime. However, in other cases such as with inpatient services, patients have to provide feedback within 48 hours from discharge.

NHS England and Improvement said they will review these requirements to allow all NHS services to accept patients’ feedback anytime, in the letter to NHS trust chief executives and CCGs accountable officers.

The letter said: ‘We believe that continuous feedback from patients can play a key role in monitoring and delivering high quality care. The changes to the FTT are all about helping services and commissioners to use it as more than a qualitative measure of collection and more towards more active use of the feedback, alongside other patient experience data, to drive quality improvements.’

Commissioners and GP practices can continue to use the current FTT requirements, but new guidance is expected to be released in September.

A 2014 research by The Picker Institute argued that the test is an ‘unreliable’ performance management measure.

In 2017, Avon LMC put forward a motion at the England LMC Conference that asked the BMA to lobby to get the test scrapped, as it only consumed general practice resources disproportionately.

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