Medico-legal 'concerns' over plan for patients to rate practices

'Significant concerns' have been raised by medico-legal experts about an NHS website allowing patients to post comment about practices.

Photograph: JH Lancy
Photograph: JH Lancy

NHS Choices plans to give patients the ability to rate services given by practices from this summer.

However Dr Stephanie Bown, director of policy and communications at the Medical Protection Society, said: ‘Health minister Ben Bradshaw announced that the government is intending to launch an NHS-backed rating system on the NHS Choices website for patients to rate their family doctors’ competence and manner.

‘Although he said the content would be moderated to exclude comments that could identify an individual GP or staff member, it will not be censored to prevent the expression of positive or negative views.

‘Therefore, I also have significant concerns about how this will work and caution that, without robust mechanisms to ensure that inappropriate comments are blocked and never published, it will not deliver on its stated objective.’

An NHS Choices spokesperson commented: 'NHS Choices will only allow patients to give feedback on the whole GP Practice, not individual GPs, as is the case with some other websites.

'One of the most popular features on NHS Choices is hospital feedback. Since the facility was introduced,  there have been thousands of comments, which have been balanced and informative.  We provide an opportunity for hospitals, and we will for GP Practices, to respond online to any feedback.

'Many hospitals tell us that the feedback from patients on NHS Choices has been helpful in identifying both what’s going right and areas where they can make improvements.

'We have a very robust moderation policy for all comments and feedback on NHS Choices and would invite people to read the comments policy at www.nhs.uk/commentspolicy.

'Whether a comment about a hospital, or in future a GP Practice, is positive or negative is something which isn’t considered by our moderation policy. However, we do have very clear rules on the publication of unsubstantiated allegations, or accusations of medical malpractice. The general rule is that if a comment is made which implies medical negligence, it wouldn’t be published and the moderators would recommend that the person who made the comment takes it directly to the hospital or GP Practice.

'We are committed to working closely with organisations representing GPs to make sure that the system that is introduced meets the requirement to provide an informative source of information for patients, and offers suitable protection to Practices.'

neil.durham@haymarket.com

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