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GPs to submit monthly data on friends and family test

NHS England wants maximum patient participation, but hasn’t set target

Louise Prime

Tuesday, 22 July 2014

GPs will soon have to give all patients the opportunity to anonymously provide feedback through the friends and family test (FFT) and submit data on their responses every month to NHS England. NHS England said that publishing local data will help current and prospective patients to make informed choices on where to receive NHS care, and highlight where problems need to be tackled.

From 1 December, GPs will be contractually obliged to implement the FFT. NHS England said that it wants maximum patient participation in the FFT, though it has stopped short of setting target response rates. It has joined with the BMA’s GPs Committee and NHS Employers to develop guidance for practices on preparing for the change.

It will be mandatory for practices to:

  • provide an opportunity for people who use the practice to give anonymous feedback through the FFT;
  • use the standard wording of the FFT question and the responses exactly (‘How likely are you to recommend our GP Practice to friends and family if they needed similar care?’). NHS England advises on how feedback might be collected from patients unable to answer on their own.
  • include at least one follow-up question that allows a free-text response;
  • submit data to NHS England each month;
  • publish results locally

NHS England said that although practices won’t have to ask patients to respond to an FFT after every single interaction, they must make sure that all patients are aware that they can give feedback at any time they wish. It said it is “keen to see practices gain feedback from as many patients as possible”.

Practices are responsible for collecting their FFT data. They may choose to commission third-party suppliers to do this – several companies already offer such a service – but remain responsible for ensuring that suppliers meet the guidance’s requirements. Practices are allowed some flexibility in matching their methodologies to local circumstances, as long as they ensure that collection methods are inclusive; and also in how hard, how often and when they promote the FFT.

NHS England said FFT data, which it will publish monthly, will allow providers to “design care services based on the feedback and around the needs of patients”.

Gill Bellord, director of employment relations and reward at NHS Employers, said: “Our early guidance will help GPs to prepare far ahead of the December deadline, helping them to tailor or expand their questions to fit patient care locally or to become early adopters.

“Getting this right will show the NHS and its patients where GP care is good and where it needs to be looked at – information that will be used to improve services and resolve problems early.”

NHS England has also reviewed use of the FFT in inpatient and A&E services since its introduction in April 2013, and found that it had had a positive impact on the NHS; 78% of trusts said they thought it had increased their emphasis on patient experience. But it also found that people found some aspects hard to understand, and so it has made changes to allow patients as well as staff to more easily understand and use the data.

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