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A faulty production line

NHS Alliance develops nine-question version of Friends and Family Test

The NHS Alliance has developed a version of the Friends and Family Test that includes nine questions, which it is looking to roll out across the country.

The test, developed in partnership with the consultancy firm iWantGreatCare, focuses on issues such as cleanliness of surgeries and the quality of receptionists.

NHS England has said that GPs will have to ask only two questions – one on whether the patient would recommend the practice to friends and family, and the other at the practice’s own discretion – as part of the GP contract from December 2014. Thirty-six early adopter practices began trials of the test last month for NHS England, using a variety of recording and collection techniques.

But the NHS Alliance and iWantGreatCare said that they hope that their version will be rolled out nationwide and that the Government, including Prime Minister David Cameron, has given its support to their work.

This signals a dramatic change in policy by the alliance, which previously called the test ‘meaningless’.

Among the nine questions for patients are: Was the surgery clean? Do you trust your doctor? Does your doctor listen to you? and would you recommend this doctor?

Dr Brian Fisher, patient and public involvement lead for the NHS Alliance and a GP in Lewisham, London, said that asking nine questions will give a much more thorough picture showing where practices need to improve.

Dr Fisher added: ‘If a practice finds out from patients that their surgery isn’t clean then it’s not difficult to do something about it. I don’t think it will involve much more work. It won’t be difficult for GPs to fit it in alongside normal activities.’

He said he hoped NHS England would recommend it as a template for GPs nationwide. ‘We think we have a package that is practical, and we don’t see why it could not be used everywhere,’ he said.

Dr Neil Bacon, founder of iWantGreatCare, said: ‘We have had nothing but support from NHS England. David Cameron told me that the work we are doing with the Friends and Family Test in the acute sector is helping the Government with its national policy.’

However, Dr Robert Morley, executive secretary of Birmingham LMC, said there was little value in so many questions.

He said: ‘For practices choosing nine questions, how much useful information is that going to provide over and above two simple questions?’

‘I’m just wondering what circumstances they intend this will be used. Is it in the practice’s benefit to help them improve care or the patient’s benefit to help choose their practices?’

He added: ‘The other point is, you can devise all the questionaires in the world but quite often they don’t actually get to the essence of defining what constitutes a great practice or a great GP. Some of the answers to those questions are indefinable really.’

The Friends and Family Test is already up and running in the acute sector, where patients are asked how likely they would be to recommend an NHS service they have used to their friends and family. Trusts are encouraged to ask a follow-up question or questions to get more details.

The NHS Alliance/iWantGreatCare package is available free to members of the NHS Alliance.

Full list of NHS Alliance/iWantGreatCare questions 

Is it easy to get an appointment?

Are receptionists helpful?

Were you involved in decisions made about you?

Was the surgery clean?

Would you recommend this surgery?

Do you trust your doctor?

Does your doctor listen to you?

Would you recommend this doctor?

Would you recommend the nurses? (optional question)

Readers' comments (15)

  • To those of you slating the idea - if a random sample of your patients were consistently answering no to all these questions, what would you do? Would you care at all?

    And what if all the answers were generally very positive - would it not be good to hear that?

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  • To those of you slating the idea ....

    We already ask this question on the annual practice survey (and it's 86% Yes at the last check).

    However, this is not useful because it does not have the resolution to provide useful feedback.

    EG: I've worked at some practices in high drug abuse areas. We used to have a stream of punters who'd storm out because they were cross that we'd refuse benzos/tramadol/sick certs etc. But that was still good medicine. The same applies to things like antibiotics.

    There are much better questions to ask in better ways. Good medicine does not always equal giving the patient what they want - it shouldn't be a popularity contest.

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  • Just chuck this idea in the same bin that the QOF rubbish went into.

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  • I wish the comments had a voting option thumbs up thumbs down. Would love to be able to "hear hear" some of them..

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  • Endless patient surveys, 360 feedback, further patient surveys, very occasional complaints, lots of lovely thank you cards, nice things on NHS patient feedback site - is this really necessary? Is there any other profession which is tested for feedback as much as we are?
    Condolences VH. Hope it was peaceful.

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