Friends and family test

From next April, every patient visiting an NHS dentist will be asked if they would recommend it to their nearest and dearest, the Government announced.

The move follows the introduction of the questionnaires in hospitals – with 'improvements already flowing', say health chiefs – and with GPs to follow suit in December.

Dental patients will be asked: ‘How likely are you to recommend our practice to friends and family if they needed similar care or treatment?’

Explaining the idea, Tim Kelsey, NHS England’s national director, said: 'I hope this will create a culture where patients expect to be given the opportunity to give feedback, and NHS staff value and act upon patients’ needs and wishes.

'This reinforces our commitment to transparency, driving up standards and listening to the voice of patients from all backgrounds and communities in our society.'

More than three million verdicts on hospitals have been given since April 2013, with 78% of bosses saying they had subsequently increased their focus on the ‘patient experience’.

NHS England said the improvements made included:

  • Faster discharge of mothers and overnight visiting times at the University Hospitals Coventry and Warwickshire Trust
  • The introduction of 'soft-closing bins' at the Mid Staffs NHS Foundation Trust, after patients protested they were being kept awake at night by noisy bins
  • The installation of full length mirrors in bathrooms at Hull and East Yorkshire Hospitals NHS Trust, after a patient in a wheelchair said the mirrors were too high.

But the British Dental association (BDA) said it feared the ‘friends and family test’ (FTT) was unsuitable for 'something as complex as dental treatment'.

It pointed out that dental practices were an 'unusual mix of NHS and private care', which will make it difficult to separate scores for NHS treatment, the only part being tested.

Dr John Milne, chairman of the BDA’s general dental practice committee, said the organisation was pressing NHS England to ensure a 'fair and proportionate approach'.

And he said: 'Practices will need clarity to allow them to prepare.

'We have asked for further clarification in a number of areas, in particular around the methods that can be used by dentists for data collection, and have also stressed that any contractual change requires a consultation process with the BDA.

'But NHS England says it will be introduced as a contractual commitment, as it will be for general medical practice, so it is a given that it will happen.'

Under new guidance, all questionnaires must include a box for patient comments after hospitals reported this the most useful part of the test.

Health secretary, Jeremy Hunt, said: 'We want the NHS to be the most transparent healthcare system anywhere in the world.'

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