“Friends and Family” test to shame under-performing hospitals
In response to a letter from the Nursing and Care Quality Forum, Prime Minister David Cameron will announce today a new test of patient care that will encourage hospitals to improve their standards. This ‘friends and family’ test is already in place for NHS staff, but it is hoped that extending it to patients will bring benefits to the National Health Service.
Patients will now be able to rate the treatment they receive, and: “in every hospital, patients are going to be able to answer a simple question: whether they’d want a friend or relative to be treated there in their hour of need,” said Cameron.
The Forum’s letter stated that: “It is critical that the NHS takes far greater notice of what people think about the quality of care they receive,” and follows recent watchdog reports of poor standards of hospital care, including inadequate nutrition and unsanitary conditions. Last year, the Care Quality Commission found that one in five hospitals failed to meet elderly care standards.
The test will be available in wards across the country from April 2013. The hope is that the information will shock doctors and nurses into increasing their level of care. With the feedback made open to the public, it is seen as a way of publicly shaming hospitals that are not up to par, and of driving them to improve their standards and treat all patients with dignity.
Cameron will also reveal a list of recommendations from nursing advisors on improving basic care for patients. This will include ‘compassion tests’ for trainee nurses to ensure that they are: “recruited for their caring nature and compassion as well as their knowledge and skills”.
Dr Peter Carter, chief executive of the Royal College of Nursing (RCN), supported the move and commented that: “patient need is increasingly complex and requires staff with both academic knowledge and values of compassion, empathy and dignity”.
However, despite this support, Cameron has also come under criticism from political counterparts. Shadow health secretary Andy Burnham commented that the announcement was no solution for longer waiting times, ward closures and the increased loss of nursing jobs. “David Cameron needs to focus a bit less on headline-grabbing announcements and a bit more on dealing with the chaos that his reorganisation has inflicted on the NHS,” Burnham said.