4th January 2013 - In May last year the Prime Minister announced details of an NHS 'friends and family' test designed to help ensure that hospital patients are treated with compassion and respect.
The test - which has already been piloted in the Midlands and the East - is due to be rolled out across England from April when patients on wards and in A&E will be asked if they'd recommend their service to a loved one. Answers will be made public so that everyone has a clear idea of which hospitals are providing the best care.
Today David Cameron has said he wants to expand use of the questionnaire: "The test is a simple measure but crucially will show whether there is a basic standard of dignity, cleanliness and respect. And I want the NHS to go further, with GP surgeries, district nursing and community hospitals using the test to improve the care they provide as soon as possible."
Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt says: "Most of our NHS does a brilliant job looking after patients - but it is still true that in many places quality of care is not valued as highly as quality of treatment. The new friends and family test will shine a light on standards of care throughout the system and help expose the shocking examples of poor care that have been coming to light much earlier."
The 'friends and family test' will cover maternity services. Louise Silverton, the Royal College of Midwives’ director for midwifery, welcomed its introduction saying, in a press statement: "It will help inform and empower women and their families about where they want to give birth. It will lead to women choosing maternity units where they believe they will get high-quality maternity care or go for a home birth or to a midwife-led unit, if these are rated positively by other women.
"Peer-led information is just as important and significant as evidence-based research."
Dr Peter Carter, Chief Executive & General Secretary of the Royal College of Nursing says in a press statement: "Patients and staff know what good quality, dignified care looks like and this ‘family and friends’ test will be one important piece of the jigsaw that provides an overall picture of quality care."
On Twitter the Patients Association says the test is 'too simplistic' to tackle a poor culture of care.
BMA GP Committee chair, Richard Vautrey told the Health Service Journal that although the existing system of collecting patient feedback on GPs was not perfect he has concerns about the cost as well as the suitability of friends and family for a primary care setting. He says:"The reality is most patients use word of mouth [to choose a GP] so I think these kind of measurements do not actually chime with what patients do in their local communities."
Andy Burnham, MP, Labour's Shadow Health Secretary says in a statement on nursing standards that:"If David Cameron really wants to give patients the best care, he should step in to support the NHS front-line, stop the job losses and ensure that every hospital in England has safe staffing levels."
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