More than 50% of GP practices have now been commented on or rated by patients on NHS Choices, according to the Department of Health.

Latest figures show that patients have rated or left a comment about 4,661 out of 8,300 GP practices in England since website launched its GP ratings functionality in October.

A total of 8,659 ratings have been submitted, of which 56% of patients said they would recommend their practice, 23% said they would not and 21% had no view.

The ratings section covers five questions including whether patients are able to get through on the telephone, whether they are treated with dignity and respect by staff and whether they feel involved in decisions about their care.

Dr Nigel Higson’s practice in Hove, Sussex, has logged the most comments with 98 ratings and 90 comments since the middle of October. The average of the practice’s 98 ratings shows that it scores top marks on all five of the questions.

Dr Higson told EHI Primary Care that he had emailed patients to ask them to log a comment on the site. He added: "I could see that in future the information might be used as part of our scoring system so I emailed patients asking them if they would log a comment."

Dr Higson said he thought the ratings functionality was useful for patients looking for a new practice although he added: "Obviously it can be open to bias and people need to be aware of that – just by asking people to comment that obviously leads to some bias as I am not going to approach those who are dissatisfied."

Dr Higson’s practice is also among those that have responded to comments made on the site which he said could be useful although he said he "did not want to get into a conversation" with people on the site.

The DH said the number of practices responding to comments was “picking up” and cited the Albion Street group Practice in London as a “good example of a practice respecting the comments of patients and responding constructively.”

The DH said 5,918 comments on GP practices had been verified and accepted with 10% of total submitted comments rejected by moderators.

The most common reason for rejection was that comments were judged to be serious complaints, which need to be channelled through the official NHS complaints process (5%).

A very small number of comments (0.1%) were rejected because they were deemed to be potentially defamatory or offensive and 0.2% were rejected because they related to an individual GP rather than a GP practice.

The DH’s analysis of the ratings logged so far shows that 50% of patients felt they were always able to get through on the telephone while a further 27% said they could usually do so.

Just under than one in three patients (29%) said they could always get an appointment when they wanted one while 35% said they could usually do so.

Almost two in three patients (62%) said they were always treated with dignity and respect and the practice always involved them in decisions about their care (63%).