This site is intended for health professionals only

Friends and Family test ‘not reliable’

The Friends and Family test, which will be rolled out in general practice in December, is ‘not a reliable performance measure’, according to new research.

Research by the Picker Institute Europe found that a combination of the use of different collection methods and demographic factors – including patients’ age and sex – could significantly skew the data, meaning the test is an unreliable performance management measure

It also showed significant differences in the way people respond when different methods are used, for example by paper or comment cards, via kiosks, telephone, or text messages.

The Friends and Family test, which will be extended to GP practices in December this year as part of the GMS contract for 2014/15, will ask patients how likely they are to recommend a GP practice.

However, it has been implemented in hospitals since 2013, and asks patients whether they would recommend hospital wards, A&E departments and maternity services to their friends and family if they needed similar care or treatment. 

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.’ 

At Pulse Live in May, deputy chair of the GPC Dr Richard Vautrey said the Friends and Family test will ‘do general practice good’.