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We are all surveyed out

Trudging the 500 yards from health centre to shopping centre the other day for a lunchtime meal-deal sandwich/crisps/Mars bar, I stopped in my tracks. Not advisable, down our way: dawdling is an open invitation either to be berated by someone because ‘that effing Canesten cream never worked’, or mugged for my sandwich/crisps/Mars bar money.

But I had to stop and gawp. Because the grimy, pock-marked concrete path had been transformed by a strange pink slush. Pink paper, in fact, moist and trodden in. And not only did it pave my way, it was daubed on walls and hung from trees. I had been transported into pink papier-mâché world.

‘Ah,’ said our practice manager, when I returned. ‘That’s our patient survey.’ It appears the punter’s response to being asked what they think of our services is to grind the survey into the street detritus and then – as it hadn’t been raining – to urinate on it. Pretty eloquent, really, although I’d like to think it’s more a comment on surveys than our services.

I hadn’t realised the sodding patient survey still existed this year, but it does: formally until April and then informally thereafter. We also have, of course, the Friends and Family Test. This is at least brief, and even allows us to go free range with our own question (‘Do you hate the CQC too? Yes/No’). But it is another admin burden for us, another pointless exercise for patients, and it isn’t even pink.

Add to that my pre-appraisal cramming, one key component being – yes – a bleedin’ patient survey, and we are reaching the point where patients are being asked if everything is all right so often they’d be forgiven for assuming something must be wrong.

And it’s going to get worse. Apparently, the recently slimmed Avoiding Unplanned Admissions DES is going to incorporate a survey, too. What it won’t ask is: ‘Do you mind being a pawn in a politically motivated stunt backed by no scientific evidence that wastes vast amounts of time and energy?’

But it should.

So what next? Should I get ‘how am I consulting?’ tattooed on my forehead?

Enough’s enough. We’re becoming quality surveyors doing a bit of general practice on the side. Besides, we already receive unsolicited feedback from patients all day long. And their message is clear: we’re doing a great job, despite political interference.

So here’s some feedback for the Department of Health: ditch the surveys. Surely you realise that they are now one of life’s major irritations? Like telephone queuing systems that repeatedly remind us how important our call is, surveys alienate the very people they affect to care so much about. My response to any service that bombards me with the standard follow-up of customer satisfaction phone call/online survey/text/stalking me in the street with a clipboard is never, ever to use that service again.

In which case, I might have a change of heart. You’ll find me at the health centre entrance handing out pink bits of paper.

Dr Tony Copperfield is a GP in Essex. You can follow him on Twitter @DocCopperfield.