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Clin Teach. 2011 Dec;8(4):258-62. doi: 10.1111/j.1743-498X.2011.00477.x.

Maximising responses to quality assurance surveys.

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Wythenshawe Hospital, Manchester, UK.



In the UK all postgraduate trainees complete an annual online quality assurance survey. If the response rate is poor, then this has significant implications for the validity and usefulness of the data collected. In this article we address the issue of survey response rates, with particular reference to quality assurance surveys, although the principles can be applied generally.


We have employed mostly evidence-based techniques (predominantly from general survey literature rather than published medical education work). We list the techniques that we have employed. These include a five-stage process of repeated and incremental contact with those who do not complete the survey, backed up by personal contact with an influential figure. Stressing the importance of completing the survey, assuring responses are confidential and keeping the invitation email brief are examples of the techniques used.


Over a 3-year period we have managed to improve the response rate from 57 per cent to over 80 per cent.


We note that role models remain the single most important determinant of medical behaviour, and that if they embrace quality assurance, trainees will too. It is important to employ and build upon the existing literature within the survey methodology. By doing this we can enhance the response rate and validity of future quality assurance surveys, thus reinforcing their role as a key tool as we strive to maximise the effectiveness of interventions in postgraduate medical education.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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