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
  • don't know how many responses you need to get from your patients.

Key points to consider

  • You must collect 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 collect 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. The selection of participants must be free from bias. We advise that you give the questionnaire to a number of consecutive patients you see.
  • Agree with your employer or questionnaire provider, the number of respondents 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. You will need to use an independent survey provider to process your feedback and give you a personalised report of your results, unless your employing organisation arranges this for you. You should use this report to reflect on what your feedback says about your practice and discuss this at your appraisal.


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 an anonymous, bench-marked feedback system 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. 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 and their relatives and carers for feedback.

He found a survey provider that collected both electronic and paper-based responses. The reply envelopes they used reassured his patients that he would not see their individual responses. Reception staff helped him distribute the forms so that he didn’t have to approach patients himself. They explained that the feedback should be specifically 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 about his work. No complaints or significant events relating to him had been reported.

He analysed his feedback in relation to benchmark data 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