The End of Life Care Strategy (DH, 2008) made a commitment to build on the VOICES (Views of Informal Carers - Evaluation of Services) work to support the development of a national survey of the bereaved which would capture invaluable information about the quality of care provided to the deceased.
This was subsequently reiterated in the NHS Outcomes Framework (2011/12), which set out the intention to implement a survey of the bereaved which would support the development of an end of life care indicator.
Following publication of the Strategy, Professor Julia Addington-Hall, at the University of Southampton, was commissioned to undertake a pilot study to develop a revised VOICES questionnaire, to test its use in two PCT areas, and to make recommendations on how to best utilise this in a national survey. The report sets out the learning from this pilot, including an analysis of the pilot findings. Work by the Department of Health to commission the national survey is currently underway.
A number of commissioners and providers have indicated their intention to undertake their own surveys of the bereaved as part of their audit and service improvment activities. These are being resourced as part of their local plans to improve end of life care, supporting implementation of the End of Life Care Strategy and the QIPP end of life care workstream. A toolkit has been developed as part of the pilot study to provide support to those organisations who have prioritised resources to undertake these local surveys. The toolkit describes the principal processes and considerations for successfully undetaking a survey of this type. The toolkit has been replaced with a revised version which incorporates the gender specific versions of the VOICES - Short Form questionnaire that were developed by the pilot project.
The copyright for the VOICES - Short Form (VOICES - SF) questionnaire rests with the Department of Health. It is freely available to use, but should not be adapted. Where adaptations would be required to meet local requirements, consideration should be given to whether VOICES - SF is the appropriate tool.
As well as providing information on service provision locally, findings from local surveys can help provide a richer picture than the national survey alone will be able to provide. If any organisations are happy to share their local survey results nationally, they can send these to the National End of Life Care Intelligence Network at firstname.lastname@example.org