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Friends and Family Test extended to maternity services

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The government’s flagship patient experience measure has been extended to cover hospital maternity services.

NHS England officials have started collecting data on how well patients feel maternity services are performing up and down the country using the Friends and Family Test (FFT).

Pregnant women and mothers will be quizzed at every maternity unit in England to ascertain their views on three different areas: antenatal care, birth and care on the postnatal ward and postnatal community care.

Three months of feedback will be collated from the 1 October start date before the conclusions are presented towards the end of January next year.

NHS England’s chief nursing officer Jane Cummings said that the Friends and Family Test provides an “additional opportunity” to receive feedback on maternity services she feels are “excellent”.

She said: “It builds on the culture of responsiveness to women’s experiences of care in real time, encouraging swift interventions when required, as well as providing positive feedback for staff when things go well.

“As hospitals are encouraged to follow up women’s responses with further questions about why they answered in the way they did, we are making sure that every pregnant woman or new mum has an opportunity to be heard. This will help us transform maternity services and better understand and meet local families’ needs.”

Louise Silverton, director for midwifery at the Royal College of Midwives, said she welcomed the announcement.

“There are no better judges of maternity services than the women who use them and this helps to put them firmly at the centre of care,” she said. “This will be very valuable feedback on how well these women, their babies and their families are being treated and cared for.

“We would encourage as many women as possible to take part and say how well our maternity services - good or bad – are performing,” she added.

The first set of data from the NHS Friends and Family survey was published on 30 July. The test was introduced in April and the data covers the first three months of the survey. 

The survey initially covered around 4,500 NHS wards and 144 A&E services. It is intended to allow hospital trusts to gain real time feedback on their services down to individual ward level.

The test is based on a system called a net promoter score, which is widely used in the private sector to measure customer satisfaction. Possible scores range from -100 to 100 and anything positive is regarded as a good score.

However, as revealed by Nursing Times in September, some nursing directors have criticised the way results from the test has been presented by the NHS Choices website, warning that it is “misleading” and alarming the public and damaging staff morale.

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