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Patient surveys, interviews and focus groups

Patient feedback

There are a number of reasons for eliciting feedback from patients and the public. For example, you might want to carry out a survey to find out what people think about your service, or perhaps run a focus group to explore a certain issue in-depth. Some services have "patient panels" who work with the management team on key decisions. If you are planning a new service, or changing the way you provide an existing service, you may be required by law to involve service-users in this process (see Section 242 link on the left of this page).

Trust approval process - surveys and semi-structured interviews

UH Bristol surveys being carried out with patients/members of the public for service evaluation or audit purposes, need to be approved by the Trust's Questionnaire, Interview & Survey Group (QIS) before they are carried out. Surveys being carried out as part of a formal research project will need to be approved by a Research Ethics Committee (see link on the left hand side of this page). The purpose of QIS is to:

  1. Ensure that all patient and public survey activity is of a high quality.
  2. Ensure that there is a central record of any survey activity within the Trust.
  3. Identify potential overlap and links between different projects.
  4. Record any Focus Group and Unstructured Interviews that are taking place in the Trust.

A list of the QIS meeting dates and submission deadlines for 2013 can be found here (as a rule of thumb, QIS meets on the first Tuesday of each month with the deadline being 12pm the Friday before, although ocassionally this changes): QIS Dates 2014

In order to carry out a survey or interview you will need to email your questionnaire, QIS submission form, and covering letter to Paul Lewis, Patient Involvement Coordinator (paul.lewis@uhbristol.nhs.uk).

We strongly encourage the use of pre-validated questions from the Picker Institute patient experience question bank wherever possible (see Survey Tips and Useful Links section on the left hand side of this page). If your questionnaire is made up of questions from the Picker Insitute questionnaires then you will usually be eligible to have your survey fast-tracked through the QIS process. This means you will not have to wait for the monthly meeting to have your project reviewed / approved and that we will only really be checking your covering letter, methodology (via the submission form) and formating.

For surveys which don't use these pre-approved questions, QIS will review your questionnaire / methodology at their monthly meeting. It is usual for further changes to be requested following the meeting and these fall into three categories:

Minor Amendments: these are usually minor formatting / spelling issues. In this case you would be asked to make any changes and, upon doing so, you can use the questionnaire.

Chairman's Approval:this means that the changes being requested are more substantial than in the case of "Minor Amendments". Once these changes have been made, the QIS Chairman will review the project before it can go ahead. However, this review can happen at any time so you do not have to wait for a QIS meeting.

Re-submission:  if significant design changes are required, the project will need to be re-submitted to QIS at a later meeting for consideration by the whole group.

Not approved: where there is a serious ethical or methodological reason why the survey cannot be conducted.

You will usually be advised of the QIS feedback within three days of the meeting (if you don't hear back please get in touch with Paul Lewis on x23638). Once your project has been approved you will be given a QIS number and you will can start your survey.

If there is a valid reason why you are unable to wait until the next QIS meeting to get your project approved (typically this would be due to urgent Trust business, or academic deadlines), please contact Paul Lewis (x23638) to discuss. In normal circumstances however it is expected that projects are reviewed at the monthly QIS meeting.

Focus groups/unstructured interviews

If you are conducting a focus group or unstructured interview as part of a service evaluation or audit, you should contact Tony Watkin (tony.watkin@uhbristol.nhs.uk / 0117 342 3729), who will be able to provide general advice and will also notify QIS that your project is taking place. These do not have to go through the formal QIS process described above but are noted on our database.

Staff surveys

Staff surveys / interviews do not have to be approved by QIS before use, but we would strongly encourage you to do so in order to ensure that the survey is fit for purpose. In any event you should contact Paul Lewis for an informal discussion about your staff survey in the first instance, to talk through your plans and to check whether it needs to go through any other Trust approval process.  

*Formal research projects will need to be approved by a Research Ethics Committee. Please note that if a REC determines that  your work is "service evaluation" you will need to submit it to QIS. 

Diagnostic / treatment questionnaires

Standardised questionnaires used as a diagnostic or treatment tool for an individual patient (rather than to draw wider inferences about a patient group or population) are for use at the discretion of the clinician responsible for that patient's care and do not require QIS approval.

Information Governance and Data Protection

It is the responsibility of the project lead (i.e. the lead person carrying out the survey, interview, or focus group) to ensure that the Trust's Information Governance and Data Protection policies are adhered to at all times. Further information can be found on the Trust's intranet: http://connect/governanceandquality/informationgovernance/Pages/default.aspx