NHS EnglandMental health and community health service users are now able to give feedback on their experiences of care and treatment.

This move is part of the continuing roll out of the Friends and Family Test (FFT), a real time patient feedback tool that is already in use in parts of the NHS, including hospital services such as maternity and A&E.

Mental health and community health are the latest areas to start gathering information from thousands of patients across the country – a move that comes a month after FFT went live across all 8,000 GP practices in England.

Patients receiving treatment on mental health wards, or receiving medication, counselling or therapy for conditions such as depression, dementia, stress, drug or alcohol addiction can now give feedback on the services they receive. It will also include services for children receiving care and support for things like eating disorders or the effects of bullying.

In community health, a wide range of patients who receive care, treatment or rehabilitation services in their own homes or local community will be able to comment on their experiences.  This includes patients receiving services from district nurses, health visitors and community midwives or at walk-in or sexual health clinics. 

FFT complements more traditional ways of finding out what patients think, such as the annual patient survey and local patient participation groups, but is ongoing and provides feedback very quickly to the healthcare professionals who can act on it.

With FFT, patients provide anonymous feedback by answering a single question that asks them to rate the service and then add free-text comments to explain their views or make suggestions for how things can be improved. It is intended to capture positive comments as well as to identify areas where services or GP practices need to do better.

Tim Kelsey, NHS England’s director for patients and information, said: “The NHS is at its best when it listens hardest to patients and service users. We are committed to an authentic culture of patient and public participation – to be open and transparent and give patients, citizens and the care professionals who serve them the information they need to continuously improve local services.

“The Friends and Family Test was launched last year in A&E departments and inpatient wards in hospitals and the real time patient feedback it has generated is driving genuine improvements in care delivery. This improvement will only continue with the expansion off FFT into mental and community services, as well as GP practices.”

Dr Geraldine Strathdee, NHS England’s national clinical director for mental health, welcomed the introduction of FFT: “Providing a service that we feel proud to recommend to those we care for, is one of the greatest signs of quality,” she said.

“Transparency is at the heart of making mental health and community health services work well for patients. This includes transparency about the services and treatments on offer, the outcomes they deliver to patients, the experience that patients have when using them and the ways in which better care can be delivered.

“We are radically transforming mental health care in England and, by gathering and sharing information, we can ensure the services we provide are the best we can offer.”