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‘Friends and family test’ to be rolled out to GP practices next year

The ‘friends and family test’ will be rolled out to all GP practices next year, the Department of Health has proposed.

The test - which asks patients if they recommend NHS services to friends and family if they needed similar care or treatment - will be introduced to all practices by December 2014 under plans revealed today.

The test has been rolled out to all acute hospital inpatients and A&E patients and will be available for women who have used maternity services from October 2013 under a target contained in the first NHS Mandate, unveiled last autumn.

Now, the Government is proposing to update the mandate to task NHS England with expanding the test to general practice and community and mental health services by the end of December 2014; and the rest of NHS funded services by the end of March 2015.

The news comes as part of a wide-ranging public consultation on the mandate unveiled by health secretary Jeremy Hunt this morning. It also includes plans for GPs to take on round-the-clock responsibility for vulnerable older people as ‘named clinicians’.

The consultation document said: ‘To help exercise choice, people also need clear and accurate information about the quality and availability of services.

‘Feedback from patients is an important part of this. The “friends and family test” will be introduced for general practice as part of the wider roll out for all services by end of December 2014.’

GPC deputy chair Dr Richard Vautrey said the plans could add ‘significant bureaucracy’ to GPs if they have to ask this in every consultation.

He added: ‘They also need to be aware of the unintended consequences this questioning may bring. It is one thing to be a good doctors, but it is quite easy to be a popular doctor. The way to become popular is to refer more patients and prescribe expensive drugs. So an unintended consequence might be increased cost to the NHS. If the temptation from this simplistic questioning is to be seen to be popular.’

The first NHS Mandate was unveiled last year, as a means for the DH to set out the strategic objectives for managing the NHS to arms-length body NHS England, and heavily influenced the contents of the GP contract imposition for 2013/14.