Patient Opinion, the website that allows patients to post comments about the health services they have used, has set up a new service for Westminster MPs.
MPs will be able to sign up for alerts when comments are made from postcodes within their constituency or about hospitals and services they are interested in.
They will also be able to post responses on the site, something that, until now, only health organisations have been able to do.
“MPs will not know who the poster is or have access to their personal details, but they will be able to make comments on the site – for example saying that they will monitor responses or take action themselves,” said Dr Paul Hodgkin, chief executive of Patient Opinion.
“We think this will make it easier for MPs to interact with their constituents and to monitor what is happening with health services in their area.”
Hodgkin also argued that the development could be seen as an example of the new government’s Big Society approach, in which citizens are put on a more equal footing with elected representatives and officials and can work with them to bring about change.
Patient Opinion was set up by Hodgkin, a Sheffield GP, in 2005. It went national in 2007 and later linked up with NHS Choices, with which it launched a comment service for mental health patients earlier this year.
The new service for MPs, which was presented at a meeting of the Hansard Society in Parliament last night, is one of a number of initiatives to extend the site’s reach.
Patient Opinion has also formed a relationship with 4iP, the investment arm of Channel 4. This has given it access to funding on a not-for-profit basis, which is being used to improve its user interface.
Patient Opinion also hopes that Channel 4 programme makers will use it as a source of information and ‘calls to action’ – encouraging patients affected by particular issues to post their stories on the site or form micro-groups to lobby for change.
Andy Williamson, the Hansard Society’s director of digital democracy, said of the MPs’ initiative: “Patient Opinion is a great example of sharing information and creating conversations between the state and citizens.
"It can really help MPs keep a finger on the pulse of local healthcare needs in their constituency.”