The government is to set up a new website to allow patients to publish and share reviews of care recived from GPs and hospitals.
Patients will be able to post detailed reviews of their experiences in their GP surgery or of their hospital appointments, in a similar style to restaurant reviews.
The aim of the website is to encourage more choice, by offering the public information about hospitals, which could help them decide where they should go for treatment.
It will provide comparative information on hospitals, dentists and GPs and allow people to see what patient survey and quality data we have collected locally. The site will also link to other relevant sources of information, such as NHS Direct online, on conditions and treatments.
The Department of Health hopes that it will encourage anyone subject to bad reports to improve their performance. An invitation to tender for the dedicated choice website was issued on Monday.
A DH spokesperson told E-Health Insider: “We want patients to be able to tell others about their experiences with the NHS. Good or bad, we want an honest review of the services they have received. This will help patients exercise their right of choice, and will help to ensure customer satisfaction with the NHS.”
The drive follows results from the July National Patient Choice Survey showing just 35% of patients recalled being offered a choice of hospitals by their GP.
It will be launched after the completion of a new choice survey which participating GPs will hand to referred patients between 16 January and 30 March straight after they have made the referral, instead of upon entry to their chosen hospital.
Speaking to the Sunday Times, a government source hinted that comments could range from “I had great treatment but the food was not very good” to “It wasn’t very clean and I had shoddy treatment.”
A moderator will ensure that comments are not defamatory in nature. Speaking at a seminar on patient empowerment at the Social Market Foundation, the health secretary, Patricia Hewitt said: “Genuinely empowering people to exercise choice is essential to creating an even better, more responsive NHS. Our aim is to provide a simple world class public information resource that any patient can access to make a more informed choice about their health care.
“By 2008, patients will have the choice to be treated at any hospital in the country which meets NHS standards at NHS cost. We are serious about Patient Choice. Last month we announced the Partnership for Patients project, an innovative pilot project that allows the public to access patient choice options through broadband enabled library computers and librarians.”
It will begin as a hospital review site only and will later extend to GPs, detailing how quickly they answer the phone or offer appointments, and how long they remain open amongst other issues.
The British Medical Association described the website as “gimmicky”. The chairman of its GPs’ committee, Hamish Meldrum said: “This seems a little bit gimmicky and superficial and rather typical of the government’s policy. People tend to go to these things when they have complaints rather than when they are satisfied so it may tend to favour the complainers rather than those in favour.”
The website will be similar to the independent website Patient Opinion which EHI Primary Care looked at last March and is funded by NHS organisations interested in public opinions.
Patient Opinion has been archiving opinions since September 2005 and 1250 patients have had comments published on the site to date. The site includes a feature separating Thanks and Moans where 340 comments have been classified as Thanks, compared to 118 moans.
Hewitt added: “This new super website takes patient choice one more step forward and will develop and expand over time to provide a comprehensive resource for patients.”
She also announced that patients needing elective treatment like a hip replacement, will be able to choose from over 200 hospitals and treatment centres from this summer and by the end of 2008, patients will be able to choose from any hospital which meets NHS standards and costs.