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New NHS ‘friends and family’ test to improve patient experience

14 February 2012

Patients will be able to have their say about the care and treatment they receive in hospital like never before, following an initiative launched across the NHS in the Midlands and East.

The new ‘friends and family’ test will ensure that patient experience is at the top of the region’s nursing and management agenda.

From 1 April, patients admitted to hospitals will be asked a single, simple question to gauge how well their expectations are being met. The question is "how likely is it that you would recommend this service to a friend or family?" using an "extremely likely" to "not at all likely" scale.

New implementation guidance on the ‘friends and family’ test, ‘Creating a revolution in patient and customer experience’, is being issued this week to all acute hospitals in the new Strategic Health Authority cluster, NHS Midlands and East, which now covers a quarter of the NHS.

The question is easy to ask and understand, is used in other industries, and will allow hospitals to compare themselves and learn from the best. Hospitals will be asking the question to 10% of their in-patients, reporting responses to their Boards and to the Strategic Health Authority cluster, NHS Midlands and East. These will be made publicly available, alongside other measures of clinical quality, and will be useful to patients in making choices about their care.

Dr Stephen Dunn, Director of Policy and Strategy at NHS Midlands and East, who is leading
the revolution in patient experience, said: “Many hospitals are already making great strides in asking their patients for feedback. But the NHS needs to ask the same question across different wards and in different hospitals, in real time, so that staff can identify problems quickly.

"Hospitals do currently measure patient experience, and some do use this single question, but there is no standard approach about the questions asked, how responses compare, and what is done with the information. This new friends and family test will address this.

“With this question, wards will be able to understand how they compare to the best, and where the best is. This new test will help provide real time evidence to enable it to tackle any inequality or inadequacies in care”.

This test, also known as the Net Promoter question, is just one of the initiatives NHS Midlands and East is developing as part of its drive to deliver improvements in the customer experience of patients, and deliver greater community participation and involvement between the service, health professionals and the public.

Copies of the guidance are available online at www.strategicprojectseoe.co.uk/index.php?id_sec=199.