How can I get enough patient feedback when I work in short term posts?

This case study will help if you:

  • work as a locum doctor, or
  • undertake short term appointments in multiple locations.

Key points to consider

  • You must reflect on patient feedback even if you undertake short term appointments and do not have an ongoing relationship with your patients.
  • Think about adapting the way you seek feedback to make sure you get a good response rate from your patients.
  • Consider how you can get feedback from a range of participants that are representative of the patients you see. Minimise bias in the selection of patients asked to take part. For example, by asking a colleague to approach a number of consecutive patients, or a random sample.
  • Agree with your employer or survey provider, the number of patient responses needed to give you an accurate picture of your practice. Your results will be less reliable if you don’t achieve the recommended number, but not invalid. Reflection on the feedback and what you have learned from it should be the focus of the discussion at your appraisal.
  • Don't collect or collate responses yourself, or ask your responsible officer or appraiser to do this. Unless your organisation arranges this for you, you need to use an independent provider to process your patient feedback and give you a summary report of your results. Use this report to reflect on what your feedback says about your practice and discuss this with your appraiser.

Scenario

Dr Timms is a career locum doctor and has worked for the same agency for the past six months. The agency is his designated body. He does short term placements, often as short as half a day.

He is due to revalidate next year, and has been collecting the required supporting information. But he's found it difficult getting patient feedback, as he's never in a placement for very long.

Dr Timms has told his appraiser he's not been able to get patient feedback. A senior colleague told him that he must use a bench-marked feedback system that lets patients respond anonymously and get responses from at least 25 patients. He feels this isn't achievable, as he rarely sees that number of patients in a single placement. Also, he feels that many of his patients wouldn't be able to use a computer to take part. Dr Timms admits he's not asked any patients to give feedback as he felt embarrassed, and didn't think they would respond.

How the doctor met our requirements

Dr Timms read the GMC guidance on collecting patient feedback and noted that he could ask his patients or their relatives and carers (if the patient can't respond) for feedback.

He found a survey provider that allowed him to collect both electronic and paper-based feedback from his patients. They provided reply envelopes, for patients to return their completed forms, that reassured them that the doctor would not see their individual responses. Reception staff helped him distribute the feedback forms so that he didn’t have to approach patients himself. They explained what the feedback was for and that it should be about Dr Timms’ performance on that day.

He also asked the Patient Advice and Liaison Service (PALS) at the hospitals where he’d undertaken placements for any feedback from patients. PALS had received a number of compliments and cards about his work. No complaints or significant events relating to him had been reported.

He analysed his feedback using a summary report supplied by the survey provider and gave good reflections on his feedback at appraisal, which identified areas for development.

Useful link

NHS England advice for locum doctors