The Francis Inquiry into the very serious failings at Mid Staffordshire Hospital was a reminder that the NHS must listen far more closely and carefully to patients.
Earlier this year, the prime minister introduced the Friends and Family Test. The test is simple. Patients are asked, "How likely are you to recommend the care you just received to a family member or friend?" They pick from range of choices that start at "extremely likely" and end at "extremely unlikely", and can then elaborate on their choice by writing in a box.
Last week the one millionth piece of Friends and Family feedback was submitted to an NHS hospital. Hospitals have already made serious improvements based on Friends and Family Test feedback, and it is having a transformative effect on patient care.
Hillingdon Hospital in Middlesex has made its wards more peaceful and comfortable at night, after patients reported that they were being disturbed by too much light and noise. Hull and East Yorkshire Hospitals NHS Trust installed full-length mirrors in their bathrooms after a patient with a wheelchair told them the mirrors were too high. The same hospital also started delivering newspapers on the wards following feedback from patients who were too ill to go shopping.
The Friends and Family Test is helping the NHS become safer - steps have been taken at Hillingdon to make sure patients with Parkinson's' Disease get their medication on time, by using a simple alarm clock to remind staff when medicine needs to be taken. And Lewisham and Greenwich Hospitals NHS Trust has improved communication with patients by making sure every day each nurse introduces themselves to the patients they will be responsible for, and has a discussion about what the patient can expect to happen during the day.
Those are just a few examples of positive change. There are many more.
We recently introduced the test to maternity units, and it will be rolled out to GP surgeries, mental and community health services by the end of December 2014. The Friends and Family Test will be complemented by a new and improved system for handling complaints. There will also be new statutory duties on hospitals and on individual doctors and nurses to be candid about harm and near misses.
Thanks to feedback received from the Friends and Family Test, wards across the country are better places to be.
The NHS is our most loved institution. It belongs to all of us. By listening more carefully and being more responsive to the people it serves, it can get even better.