The NHS carried out a “friends and family” test in April, May and June 2013. Hundreds and thousands of patients took part. The test entailed patients responding to questions, rating their stay in the hospital ward or department where they were treated. It included patients who stayed in hospital, were treated in outpatients or attended A & E.

The friends and family test allowed patients to rate the care they received and to state if they would recommend the department where they received treatment. This is the first time that the NHS has ever published a single measure of patient satisfaction for every hospital in the UK.

The question asked was

“How likely are you to recommend our ward/A&E department to your friends and family if they needed similar care or treatment?”

This has all come about as a consequence of the mistakes made by Mid Staffordshire HNS Trust where patients died unnecessarily due to poor standards of care. Tim Kelsey, NHS England’s National Director for Patients and Information, said:

“At the heart of the tragedy of Mid Staffordshire was one simple lesson: the NHS has got to do better at listening to patients and doing something about what they say”.

Jeremy Hunt the Health Secretary has been reported as saying that “This is a radical response, a potential game changer. It creates a direct conversation and gives NHS staff the opportunity to respond quickly to what they are being told. We hope to encourage a patient-led revolution in healthcare, driven by the transparency, better information and public participation in design of services.”

David Cameron announced this test back in January 2012. He said that the test would allow patients to speak out and the aim was for patients to decide if the care they received was good enough.

Hospital identified by the test results as providing poor care will be required to take action quickly to ensure that improvements are made and NHS England will publish monthly data which should provide feedback about what patients think of services.

It is hoped that NHS England will extend the test to maternity services in October 2013 and to GP practices and mental health services by the end of December 2014, with all remaining services to be included by 2015. This can only be a good thing. The test will work if patients are honest about the poor services that they receive. The test may help to improve services within the NHS if poor results are acted upon swiftly and changes are made. There must be no half measures. Changes will have to go someway to improve services and make the NHS safe again.

Apparently, NHS Trusts will also invite patients to provide more information so they can understand more deeply what they are being told. Jeremy Hunt, Health Secretary has been quoted as saying; “This is an historic moment for the NHS – we will eventually know what patients think about almost every ward, at every hospital, across the county. This simple test will throw a spotlight on both good and poor care, and sends a clear signal to every NHS organisation that patients must come first every time.”

If it works then poor care in the NHS will weeded out, NHS Trusts will learn and good standards of care will become the norm and horrific incidents as seen in Staffordshire will hopefully be a thing of the past.