The majority of patients would recommend accident and emergency, and inpatient wards to their nearest and dearest based on their own experience, suggests data released today.
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 covers 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.
It is based on one question: “how likely are you to recommend our ward/A&E department to your friends and family if they needed similar care or treatment?”
Patients are presented with six responses ranging from “extremely likely” through to “extremely unlikely”, which are linked to scores ranging from 100 through to -100.
In June, only 36 wards out of 4,500 across the country scored an overall negative figure, compared with 38 in May and 66 in April.
For A&E in June, just one service received a negative score. This compared with seven in May and six in April.
Overall, the national score for the three-month period was 70 for inpatient wards and 53 for A&E – suggesting more patients were happy with the quality of care in their local inpatients than in A&E.
Specialist hospitals tended to have higher scores for inpatient services.
More than 400,000 patients completed the survey over the first three months. But this represented only 13.1% of patients that received inpatient or A&E care over the period – the government has set a response rate target of 15%.
In addition, there was wide variation in the response rate between trusts.
East Kent Hospitals University Foundation Trust managed to collect responses on inpatient care from just 1% of patients over the period, while the Royal National Hospital For Rheumatic Diseases Foundation Trust had a response rate of 81%.
Tim Kelsey, NHS England’s national director for patients and information, said it was important the early data was “treated carefully”.
“Low response rates can have a dramatically disproportionate impact on scores,” he said. “As more and more patients respond, the data will become more and more robust.”
But he added that “a significant and real variation in the quality of customer service across the NHS” was evident from the first set of data.
Health secretary Jeremy Hunt said: “This simple survey will give us the information we need to celebrate the best in our NHS and root out poor care.”
Jane Cummings, NHS England’s chief nursing officer, added: “For the first time, there will be very regular information at ward or department level which will allow those responsible for commissioning and providing care to respond to patient feedback and improve patient experience.
“Nurses, in particular will have detailed information to help them deliver the best possible patient experience.”
The Care Quality Commission will also use the data as part of its new surveillance system when assessing risks at hospitals, together with other data such as mortality rates and never events.
Peter Carter, chief executive and general secretary of the RCN, said: “The overall picture painted by this first batch of data suggests that much of the NHS is performing well, and patients are satisfied by the care they have received.
“Patients, and indeed potential patients, should be reassured that despite recent reports the NHS is an effective and caring health care system, able to respond to their needs.”
Unison deputy head of health Sara Gorton said: “It is heartening that the vast majority of patients do have a good experience in the NHS.”
But she added: “Comments from staff as well as patients are crucial in driving up standards of care. We know that the lack of staff on the ward is often the biggest cause of complaints.”
Sally Brearly, chair of the Nursing and Care Quality Forum, said: “Used properly, the data will allow the NHS to deliver real improvements for the benefit of all.
“Good or bad, it demonstrates transparency in recognising where change may be required and acting on the feedback patients give us.”
But Ms Brearly noted that “contrary to how the test is sometimes portrayed, it is not just about care provided by nurses”.
She said: “The friends and family test gives results down to ward level, which means all individuals delivering patient care, including doctors, allied health care workers, and other ward staff, can make improvements as a team to the service they are providing.”
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