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GPs to publish Friends and Family Test data monthly

Every GP practice in England will have to provide monthly data on the Friends and Family Test (FFT) from January next year, NHS England has announced.

In guidance for GPs published today. NHS England outlines the requirements that will be made of GPs as part of the test, which asks patients whether they would recommend services to their friends and family if they needed similar care or treatment.

Giles Wilmore, NHS England’s director of patient and public voice and information, has written to GPs to tell them that they will be required to submit monthly FFT data from January 2015, which will include anonymous patient feedback via a standardised FFT question, plus one other question with a ‘free text’ response field.

As part of the test, which will be rolled out to GP practices from December, patients can answer the primary question anonymously on a five-point scale, with responses ranging from ‘extremely likely’ to ‘extremely unlikely’.

NHS England has suggested that practices use the free text option to create larger surveys, and ‘should consider asking demographic questions to collect equality and diversity information’. However, they warned that the FFT question must be asked first, before other questions.

The guidance states that practices will be able to choose their own data collection methods, although ‘token’ collection systems – where patients score their practice by dropping a token into a box, with no free text option –  are not permitted.

Practices have been told that they must submit data from the first, standardised FFT question to NHS England once a month and publish the results locally (for example, on their practice website).

NHS England have confirmed that they will also publish FFT data on a monthly basis, but have not yet said how this will work. The body says it will ‘road-test’ various options and consult with the GPC before a final decision is made.

Over three million individual pieces of FFT feedback from A&E departments and inpatient services have been collected since April 2013, which NHS England says have helped Trusts to improve and develop their services around the needs of patients.

But Tim Kelsey, NHS England’s National Director for Patients and Information, said that the key aim of FFT was the publication of results to ‘inform patient decisions and choice’.  

He added: ‘By April 2015, we will have introduced the FFT to millions of patients across thousands of providers of NHS funded services including GP and dental practices, ambulance, mental health and community services, as well as outpatients.  

‘This reinforces our commitment to transparency, driving up standards and listening to the voice of patients from all backgrounds and communities in our society.’

Pulse reported earlier this month that research by the Picker Institute Europe has found that practices using different collection methods (in combination with demographic factors like patient age and sex) could result in FFT being an unreliable performance measure.