Health experts reject 'friends and family' test

Prime Minister insists patient survey will go ahead amid growing opposition within NHS

The "friends and family" test hailed by David Cameron last week as a means of ratcheting up standards of care in hospitals and GP surgeries had already been given the thumbs down by experts working for the NHS regulator, the Care Quality Commission.

Research commissioned by the CQC at the request of the Department of Health and published in June 2012 concluded that the test, based on one used in the retail industry, was "not appropriate for use in an NHS setting".

Opposition to the test among medical groups has been growing. The NHS Alliance, representing GP commissioning groups, said on Friday it was "useless and meaningless".

Despite the negative verdict, the test, in which patients will be asked if they would recommend a service to a loved one, is being introduced into every hospital in England in April. On Friday, Mr Cameron gave his backing to the move and said the principle should be extended to GPs' surgeries, district nursing and community hospitals. "The test is a simple measure but crucially will show whether there is a basic standard of dignity, cleanliness and respect," Mr Cameron said.

Mr Cameron and the Health Secretary, Jeremy Hunt, have become alarmed at a perceived decline in compassion in the health service, highlighted by scandals such as those at Mid Staffordshire NHS Trust, where hundreds of patients died as a result of poor care. The friends and family test is based on a measure of customer satisfaction called the Net Promoter Score, used in the retail industry to assess brand loyalty. A £50m incentive fund will be available for hospitals to support extension of the test.

The use of the NPS among patients was examined in the CQC report, Overarching Questions for Patient Surveys, commissioned from the Picker Institute Europe. It found interviewees objected to be being asked to recommend a hospital or did not understand the request. They failed to grasp they were being asked to make a choice ("if someone was ill, you would say go to hospital"), were unhappy about recommending an institution after having contact with only a few of its staff and could not see the point of the question ("why would I recommend bladder cancer?").

Experts have criticised the test as "lacking rigour and subject to bias." Roy Lilley, a former NHS manager and independent health policy analyst, said: "As the average NHS patient has little opportunity of switching brands away from the NHS... the whole exercise is hollow." But Mr Lilley said the test could be relied on to produce positive scores that would be "gold dust in the run up to the 2015 election". In addition, by publishing results ward by ward "staff will start to feel proprietorial about performance" which was likely to translate into a "positive impact on morale". A spokesperson for the Department of Health said: "The final way it will work will be slightly different."

PROMOTED VIDEO
Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
ebooks
ebookPart of The Independent’s new eBook series The Great Composers
Sport
Adnan Januzaj and Gareth Bale
footballManchester United set to loan out Januzaj to make room for Bale - if a move for the Welshman firms up
Arts and Entertainment
Lena Headey as Cersei Lannister in Game of Thrones
film
News
i100
Sport
Yaya Sanogo, Mats Hummels, Troy Deeney and Adnan Januzaj
footballMost Premier League sides are after a striker, but here's a full run down of the ins and outs that could happen over the next month
News
Nigel Farage celebrates with a pint after early local election results in the Hoy and Helmet pub in South Benfleet in Essex
peopleHe has shaped British politics 'for good or ill'
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Recruitment Genius: Panel & Cabinet Wireman

    £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Panel Wireman required for small electro...

    Recruitment Genius: Electronics Test Engineer

    £25000 - £27000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An SME based in East Cheshire, ...

    Recruitment Genius: Marketing Assistant

    £18000 - £22000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Do you have previous experience...

    Recruitment Genius: Accounts Administrator

    £16000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

    Day In a Page

    War with Isis: The West needs more than a White Knight

    The West needs more than a White Knight

    Despite billions spent on weapons, the US has not been able to counter Isis's gruesome tactics, says Patrick Cockburn
    Return to Helmand: Private Davey Graham recalls the day he was shot by the Taliban

    'The day I was shot by the Taliban'

    Private Davey Graham was shot five times during an ambush in 2007 - it was the first, controversial photograph to show the dangers our soldiers faced in Helmand province
    Revealed: the best and worst airlines for delays

    Revealed: the best and worst airlines for delays

    Many flyers are failing to claim compensation to which they are entitled, a new survey has found
    The stories that defined 2014: From the Scottish independence referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions

    The stories that defined 2014

    From the Scottish independence referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions
    Stoke-on-Trent becomes first British city to be classified as 'disaster resilient' by the United Nations

    Disaster looming? Now you know where to head...

    Which British city has become the first to be awarded special 'resilience' status by the UN?
    Finally, a diet that works: Californian pastor's wildly popular Daniel Plan has seen his congregation greatly reduced

    Finally, a diet that works

    Californian pastor's wildly popular Daniel Plan has seen his congregation greatly reduced
    Say it with... lyrics: The power of song was never greater, according to our internet searches

    Say it with... lyrics

    The power of song was never greater, according to our internet searches
    Professor Danielle George: On a mission to bring back the art of 'thinkering'

    The joys of 'thinkering'

    Professor Danielle George on why we have to nurture tomorrow's scientists today
    Monique Roffey: The author on father figures, the nation's narcissism and New Year reflections

    Monique Roffey interview

    The author on father figures, the nation's narcissism and New Year reflections
    Introducing my anti-heroes of 2014

    Introducing my anti-heroes of 2014

    Their outrageousness and originality makes the world a bit more interesting, says Ellen E Jones
    DJ Taylor: Good taste? It's all a matter of timing...

    Good taste? It's all a matter of timing...

    It has been hard to form generally accepted cultural standards since the middle of the 19th century – and the disintegration is only going to accelerate, says DJ Taylor
    Olivia Jacobs & Ben Caplan: 'Ben thought the play was called 'Christian Love'. It was 'Christie in Love' - about a necrophiliac serial killer'

    How we met

    Olivia Jacobs and Ben Caplan
    Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's breakfasts will revitalise you in time for the New Year

    Bill Granger's healthy breakfasts

    Our chef's healthy recipes are perfect if you've overindulged during the festive season
    Transfer guide: From Arsenal to West Ham - what does your club need in the January transfer window?

    Who does your club need in the transfer window?

    Most Premier League sides are after a striker, but here's a full run down of the ins and outs that could happen over the next month
    The Last Word: From aliens at FA to yak’s milk in the Tour, here’s to 2015

    Michael Calvin's Last Word

    From aliens at FA to yak’s milk in the Tour, here’s to 2015