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 patient experience survey work both in Scotland and elsewhere in the UK. ISD Scotland provided support for the administration of the survey along with Scottish Government analytical staff.
The fieldwork commenced on 20 January 2016 with 43,901 survey packs initially posted by the contractor on behalf of each NHS Board.
Reminder letters were sent out twice during the duration of fieldwork to further encourage participation in the study. The first reminder, which consisted solely of a reminder letter, was sent on 17 February 2016 to all people who did not respond to the first mailing in the three or four weeks after receiving the initial survey pack.
A second reminder, which consisted of a full survey pack, was sent out on 16 March 2016 to all those people who did not respond approximately four weeks after the first reminder letter was issued.
Data was collected in the form of hardcopy (postal) returns and online returns.
During the fieldwork, a freephone helpline was made available to respond to queries from the people surveyed. Approximately 950 telephone enquiries were received.
As with all Care Experience surveys, ISD Scotland and the Scottish Government were keen that every possible effort was made to avoid questionnaires being sent to family members of deceased people. Therefore, similar to previous surveys, before the initial survey and reminders were issued, a list of people included in the survey was sent to NHS Central Register ( NHSCR  ) and linked to the National Records of Scotland ( NRS) deaths database. This allows NHSCR to provide regular extracts of decreased people to ISD Scotland during the various mail-out periods. This process also helped identify people who had died elsewhere in the UK. Having access to death information greatly reduced the number of questionnaires being sent to addresses of decreased people. We are grateful to NHSCR for their help and support during this stage of the project.
A total of 544 people were identified as deceased by NHSCR checks and removed from the sample prior to the initial mail-out of the survey. These individuals were not sent survey packs.
NHSCR checks identified 432 and 389 people as deceased prior to the first and second mail-out respectively. These individuals were not sent reminders.
In a further 43 cases, a questionnaire was sent to a person who had died but had not yet appeared on the deaths database 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 is registered and updated on the NRS database.
This delay, combined with the volume of the mail-out process, made it extremely difficult to prevent all questionnaires being sent to addresses of decreased people. However, as outlined above, considerable effort was made to avoid this as much as possible.
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