NHS friends and family test

Dentists who have an NHS contract will have had a letter from Barry Cockcroft in his capacity as chief dental officer (CDO) for NHS England.

It introduces the ‘NHS friends and family test’ – a new one on me and I suspect many dentists working in the service.

The powers that be intend to make it a contractual requirement for dentists to implement the test in their practices from 1 April, 2015.

And no, there is to be no extra funding for dental practices to do this – what a surprise.

It will go across all the NHS in England, hospitals, GPs (general practitioners), dentists and ambulances.

The only ones excluded for now are pharmacists and opticians.

Patients will be asked a single question: 'We would like you to think about your recent experience of our service.

'How likely are you to recommend our (practice) to friends and family if they needed similar care or treatment?'

The options for the patient to respond are: extremely likely, likely, neither likely or unlikely, unlikely, extremely unlikely and don’t know.

Patients will also have the opportunity to leave ‘free text’ ie what they really think.

The feedback is anonymous and is sent to the practice.

But the results must be sent to NHS England and monthly data will be published.

The test is based on a customer satisfaction survey used in the retail industry, called the Net Promoter Score, which measures how many would recommend your product or service to others.

When applied to the NHS it has had its critics from within healthcare groups.

It does, however, have the backing of the prime minister and secretary of state, who see it as a way of pushing up standards in NHS care, following the Stafford scandal.

A couple of points seem a little odd though.

GP practices have their own guidance negotiated through the BMA (British Medical Association) and its GP committee.

Dentists have the same guidance as hospitals however, despite their contracts being more like that of GPs.

Was the BDA (British Dental Association) consulted?

Yes says the CDO’s letter.

It had representatives on a so-called ‘workstream group’ that focused specifically on how the scheme would affect dentists.

I wonder who they were.

If it all goes pear-shaped, like CQC (Care Quality Commission) did at the beginning, it would be nice to know who to blame.

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