Frequently Asked Questions

About the survey

Why was I sent a questionnaire?

You were sent a questionnaire as you recently visited or received services from a healthcare organisation that is currently taking part in a national patient survey.

Do I have to take part?

Not if you don't want to. Taking part is completely voluntary but the more responses that are received, the more accurate the findings will be in terms of assessing how well each healthcare organisation is performing.

I don't want to take part, how do I opt out?

If you do not wish to take part, please return the blank questionnaire in the FREEPOST envelope or call the telephone number provided in the letter sent with the questionnaire. If we do not hear from you in 1- 2 weeks we may send you a reminder. Two reminders are sent out during the course of a survey, if you have said you don't want to take part you shouldn't receive a further reminder.

Why is a national survey taking place?

By asking healthcare organisations to carry out patient surveys in a consistent and systematic way, it is possible to build up a detailed picture across the country of patients' experiences. This approach not only allows organisations to compare their performance with others but, by repeating the same type of survey on a regular basis, progress and improvements over time can be monitored.

As well as providing important information for each organisation, the survey results are used by the Care Quality Commission to measure and monitor performance at both a local and national level.

Who wants this survey to take place?

The Care Quality Commission is the health watchdog and is responsible for the surveys. The topics included in the survey programme are agreed between the Department of Health and the Care Quality Commission, and often involve other organisations in the approach and design of the surveys.

What is the Care Quality Commission?

The Care Quality Commission (CQC) is the independent regulator of all health and adult social care in England. The CQC inspects all health and adult social care services in England, whether they're provided by the NHS, local authorities, private companies or voluntary organisations. It also protects the interests of people detained under the Mental Health Act.

Before April 1st 2009, this work was carried out by the Healthcare Commission, the Mental Health Act Commission and the Commission for Social Care Inspection.

You can find out more about the Care Quality Commission on their website:

How many questionnaires are sent out?

This depends on the type of survey being carried out. There are a number of different surveys in the patient survey programme and the number of questionnaires sent out (the 'sample size') varies.

Can I see the results of the survey?

The results of surveys carried out can be found by visiting the Care Quality Commission's website at . If you go to the healthcare information under the 'find care services' section you will be able to select your chosen trust or geographical location. From there you can obtain an overview of how well the trust is rated overall, based on data collected by the Commission, as well as the survey results themselves in the 'what patients said about this trust' section. You will also be able to see how the survey results for a trust compare with those from all other trusts.


Completing the questionnaire

Do I have to answer every question?

Please answer as many questions as you can. If you are unable to answer some of them do not worry, your reply will still be useful to us. You may also be asked to skip some questions if they are not relevant to you. This will be explained in the instructions alongside the questions.

What happens if I have difficulties completing the questionnaire?

A telephone number is given on the letter sent with the questionnaire. If you have any difficulty in completing the questionnaire please call the number.

Can I complete the survey in any other languages?

The surveys can be completed over the phone in a number of other languages. Please see the separate leaflet sent with the questionnaire which explains what to do and gives a number to call.

I've made a mistake? What do I do?

Do not worry. Please still send us your completed questionnaire. Just cross out the incorrect answer and then carefully tick the correct box.

Can I give the questionnaire to my spouse/friend/someone else to fill in?

The only person who can reply to the questions is the person whose name is on the letter. But you can ask someone to help you fill out the questionnaire provided the answers are your own.

Can I ask for help from someone to fill the questionnaire in?

It's OK to ask someone to help you fill out the questionnaire but the answers must be about your own experience only.

When do I need to send it back by?

Please return your completed questionnaire as soon as you can to make sure your views are included.

Do I need to send the letter back?

No, you only need to send your completed questionnaire back in the envelope provided.

How do I send the questionnaire back?

Please return the questionnaire in the Freepost envelope provided. No stamp is needed.

I have not received an envelope with my letter

Another envelope should arrive with your second reminder letter. No stamp is needed as a Freepost address is used.

I've lost my questionnaire; can you send me another copy?

Reminders and a fresh copy of the questionnaire will be sent to people who haven't returned the original questionnaire. This should be with you over the next two to three weeks.

I have lost the return envelope. How do I return the questionnaire?

Another Freepost envelope will come with a second reminder letter. No stamp is needed.

Why haven't I received a questionnaire? How do I get one?

The questionnaire is being sent to a selection of people picked at random. To ensure the survey is valid, we cannot send questionnaires to other people. If you would like to provide feedback on your local healthcare organisation, you can do this by contacting them directly. All organisations should have a system in place for receiving and dealing with comments and concerns from patients and the public.

Data Protection

How did you get my name and address?

Patients' names are selected randomly from the NHS list of patients registered with a healthcare organisation. These contact details will be kept confidential and, once the survey has been completed, they will be destroyed.

Have you got access to my health data?

Your name and address have been used by those working on the survey only in order to send you the questionnaire. No information about your health is obtained - this remains confidential between you and the healthcare professionals in charge of your care.

Other personal information that you provide, such as date of birth and your ethnic group, are only used to ensure that the anonymised survey data match the profile of the population as closely as possible. These details are not matched to your name and address at any point during the course of the survey.

How can I be sure that my personal data are kept confidential? (Data Confidentiality Policy)

Your personal data are held in accordance with the Data Protection Act 1998 and the NHS Confidentiality Code of Practice. Your contact details will not be linked to your responses or shared with anyone else except in very rare cases where there is reason to believe that you or someone else is at serious risk of harm. This would only be the case if a comment is written on a questionnaire that requires us to follow up as part of our safeguarding duty. If comments on the questionnaire suggest you or someone else is at risk of serious harm, your details would be provided to the appropriate authority to investigate.

Is my doctor or healthcare professional involved in this survey?

They may be aware of the survey but they will not be directly involved and they will not have access to individual answers.

Will my doctor or healthcare professional see my answers to this survey?

The overall results from the survey will be published on the Care Quality Commission website and used within the healthcare organization. This will only be done in ways that ensure no individuals can be identified.

Will I be identifiable in the results?

No. We will produce anonymous statistics from the responses for each organisation taking part in the survey. All name and address information relating to this survey will be held securely then destroyed within a maximum of three months of completion of the survey.

How will the data from the survey be used?

We will share data from the surveys with national bodies who will use the data to support their functions, though this will not include names or addresses.

Data will be shared with NHS England and the Department of Health. NHS England will use the results to understand patients' experiences of NHS services and to drive improvements to them. The Department of Health may use the results to generate aggregate indicators at local, regional and national level, as well as for other publications. These indicators form part of the range of Outcome Frameworks that will be used to hold the NHS Commissioning Board to account for improvements in health outcomes. The data will also be shared with the Health and Social Care Information Centre, or other organisations, working on behalf of Department of Health or NHS England for the purpose of generating these indicators.