Friends And Family Test Already Improving NHS Community Services

A patient feedback scheme introduced in Lincolnshire before a national rollout is proving to be making a difference to patient care.

The Friends and Family Test became compulsory for all community and mental health trusts to provide to patients across England from January 1, 2015, but was it was introduced voluntarily as good practice in some of Lincolnshire's services as early as April 2012.

The test asks patients how likely they are to recommend the service to their family and friends based on the care they have received. Some patients may already be familiar with the test, with it also having been used in acute hospitals  for some time and more recently by GPs. Its roll out will continue to include ambulance trusts and dentists later this year.

Lincolnshire Community Health Services NHS Trust (LCHS) started by implementing the test in inpatient areas and urgent care services, followed by all community services by September 2014. The trust now receives more than 1,000 comments a month from the Friends and Family Test and other feedback surveys, which have helped drive a number of changes.

This includes:

  • new clinics run by health visitors to ensure parents have access to staff with the right skills and knowledge to answer their questions;
  • setting up an appointment system for health visitors in the Grantham area;
  • plans to refurbish and decorate areas of the Skegness Hospital site;
  • ensuring patients are part of the discharge planning process and have a planned discharge date to work towards from arrival into hospital;
  • purchasing mirrors for patient bathrooms at the Butterfly Hospice in Boston;
  • improved communication to patients taking part in the cardiac rehabilitation programme to give a clear timetable of activities;
  • further engagement with patients for their feedback on using the telephone service for the Diabetes team.

Sue Cousland, Chief Nurse and Director of Operations at LCHS, said: "To help us to deliver care in the right way, in the right place and at the right time, we take every possible opportunity to ask patients and service users about their experiences.

"The insight the Friends and Family Test gave us when it was implemented in our community hospitals in Gainsborough, Louth, Skegness and Spalding meant we could not only identify best practice but also see where patients felt improvements needed to be made.

"Such was the level of constructive feedback, we felt that a similar approach could also support the services we deliver into patients' homes and other community clinics to be more responsive. It was agreed that a pilot should be commenced in July 2014, with a rollout to incorporate participation by all services by September.

"Since then we have found that the comments made continue to make a very valuable contribution to help us further shape our community services to meet the needs of the registered population of Lincolnshire."

Further information can be found on the Friends and Family Test page on the LCHS website: www.lincolnshirecommunityhealthservices.nhs.uk/Public/content/friends-an...