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Community rollout of Friends and Family Test needs 'open mind'

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District nursing services can be hard to evaluate District nursing services can be hard to evaluate

An 'open mind' will be needed when evaluating the results of the Friends and Family test (FFT) for community nursing services says district nursing leader.

Crystal Oldman, the chief executive of the QNI welcomed the extension of the FFT to community services as it distinguishes between community and hospital care. However, she said that as nursing services in the community are 'interdependent with many other services' such as social care, community equipment services, GP services, out-of-hours GP services, local pharmacies and informal carers, it may be difficult for patients to differentiate between the different services, when filling in the FFT.

'Patients and their families cannot be expected to consistently distinguish the responsibility of the district nursing service from the input of other services, which together make up the total package of care. There is a risk that the Friends and Family test for district nursing services may be less valid as a direct measure of quality, and this must be taken into account when the initial test results are evaluated,' she said.

However, Ms Oldman acknowledged that 'direct feedback from patients, their carers and families is always a very useful way of learning about the service provided, the positive aspects - and of course the improvements needed.'

NHS England's FFT was extended to include community services and mental health services from 1 January 2015.

Community services include district nurses, health visitors, community midwives, walk-in clinics and sexual health clinics. This also covers community services for children such as specialist asthma clinics.

Juliette Penney, a fellow of the Insitute of Health Visiting and a manager in health visiting services, says that service user feedback can be a 'powerful voice and one that can influence local authorities who will be the future commissioners of the health visiting service.'

'Whilst percentages of service users completing the friends and family test is important, health visiting must not lose the focus of quality service provision,' she adds.

The extension comes a month after the FFT was extended to 8000 GP practices in England.

The FFT was initially launched last year in A&E departments and has since been extended to include other parts of the NHS.

The FFT is an evaluation of NHS services completed by patients based on the premise of whether the patient would recommend the service they received to friends or family.

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