Health and Care Experience Survey 2019/2020: technical report

Report on the technical aspects of the survey, including development, implementation, analysis and reporting.

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5. Fieldwork

The Scottish Government contracted Quality Health Ltd to administer the survey. Quality Health Ltd has in-depth experience of NHS surveys, and has provided support for other care experience survey work both in Scotland and elsewhere in the UK. Public Health Scotland provided support for the administration of the survey along with Scottish Government analytical staff.


The fieldwork began on 16th October 2019. In total, 604,127 letters and information sheets were posted out in batches between 16th and 21st October 2019. These initial letters asked respondents to complete the survey online, but also included a helpline number.

Reminder letters including a paper version of the questionnaire, were sent out from the 30th October until the 14th November 2019.

Survey Helpline Calls

During the fieldwork a telephone helpline answered queries from people surveyed. In total, 3,390 telephone enquiry calls were answered by the telephone and language line. This was a substantial decrease on the number received in 2017/18 (which was 10,305), which is largely attributed to a change in the wording of the initial contact letter which reduced the number of people calling to complete the questionnaire over the phone and due to fewer issues with the online questionnaire which reduced the number of helpline calls. Calls fell into the broad categories shown in Table 5. The number of helpline calls regarding telephone completions is greater than the number of telephone completions received (table 12) as respondents are able to start a telephone completion, take a break and then call back later to complete the questionnaire, resulting in more than one call to the helpline for some telephone completions.

Table 5: Number of calls to the survey helpline, by main reason for the call
Main reason for call Number of calls
General enquiry 561
Help to complete the survey online 1,297
Telephone completions 353
To say someone had moved house 219
To say someone had died 56
To decline to take part 662
Person sampled is ineligible 206
Translation request 29
Complaint 7
Total 3,390

People who were recently deceased

The people included in the 2019/20 survey were sampled from an extract taken from the CHI database provided to Public Health Scotland on 20th August 2019. The sampling, questionnaire printing and mail-out process extended from this date through to the final mailing date of the 14th November 2019. This meant that some people would have died between the extract date and mail out dates.

As with all Care Experience surveys, every possible effort was made by Quality Health Ltd, Public Health Scotland and the Scottish Government to avoid questionnaires being sent to family members of people who had died. Therefore, in the same way to previous surveys, a list of people included in the initial sample was sent to NHS Central Register (NHS CR*) and linked to the National Records of Scotland deaths database register to identify people who had recently died and remove them from the sample.

The list of people sampled for the survey was shared with Atos Origin Alliance (who host the CHI database) and the NHS Central Register (NHS CR). This allowed NHS CR to check on a daily basis for people who had died and send notifications to Public Health Scotland throughout the mail-out period. Public Health Scotland subsequently passed this information on to Quality Health Ltd, who removed survey packs as required prior to mail out. Having access to information about recent deaths greatly reduced the number of questionnaires being sent to addresses of people who had died. We are grateful to NHS CR and Atos Origin Alliance for their help and support during this stage of the project.

A total of 1,299 people were identified as deceased by NHS CR and Atos checks and removed from the sample prior to and on the initial mail-out day of the survey on the 16th October 2019. These individuals were not sent survey packs. NHS CR and Atos Origin Alliance identified a further 98 people as deceased during the initial mail out period (17th - 21st October 2019). Public Health Scotland subsequently passed this information on to Quality Health Ltd, who removed remaining survey packs as required prior to mail out.

NHS CR and Atos Origin Alliance checks identified 568 people as deceased during the reminder mail out period (30th October – 14th November 2019). Public Health Scotland passed this information to Quality Health Ltd, who ensured these people were not sent survey packs. These figures include a small number of cases where the death status of individuals could not be confirmed.

In a further 56 cases a questionnaire was sent to someone who had died after the death checks had been made and the person’s family contacted Quality Health Ltd to notify them of this.

Any death which occurs in Scotland must be registered within eight days of the date of death. This means that there can be a delay between the actual date of death and the date that it is registered and updated on the CHI and National Records of Scotland databases. This delay, combined with the volume of the mail out process, made it extremely difficult to prevent all questionnaires being sent to addresses of people who had died. However, as outlined above, efforts were made to avoid this as much as possible.




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