GPs and dentists want NHS Choices to consider how patient comments on its website are moderated, saying they are often “malicious” or “fictitious”.
Information provided to eHealth Insider shows that more than 68,000 comments have been posted on NHS Choices about NHS services and 9,300 rejected – an overall rejection rate of 12%.
Comments are rejected if they contain abusive language or are disrespectful about any group or person.
Just under half the comments – 33,000 – have been about GPs, of which 2,162 (6%) were rejected. More than 3,000 queries have been made about the comments that passed the moderators and appeared on site.
Dr Chaand Nagpaul, a BMA General Practitioner Committee negotiator and lead on IT issues, said 3,000 queries was “far too many.”
However, he said the figure probably underestimated the extent of the problem, as a large number of practices would not bother challenging comments.
“In most cases the predominance of feedback is from patients with an issue they want to raise, or a complaint, which gives a very misleading impression,” he said.
Having a few bad comments on NHS Choices could “tar” a practice’s reputation, he added, claiming that most GPs felt that the patient feedback was not a representative view of the practice population.
There was often too little information for the practice to have the proper right to reply and some comments were factually incorrect, but were difficult to have removed.
“They don’t know who the patient is and don’t have information about the incident to be able to counter it; so there’s a disadvantage to practices by enabling patients to provide feedback without detail and without identity,” he explained.
Dr Nagpaul said the system for having unfair or incorrect comments removed should be much faster, that practices should be able to reply directly to commenters via the moderator, and that NHS Choices should carry a disclaimer saying the comments were not a representative view of the patient population.
He added that GPs were not against feedback, but there was a fairer way of representing how patients viewed a practice, which was the National Patient Survey.
The British Dental Association has also called on NHS Choices to consider the way that comments about dental practices are moderated.
Dentists have had about 5,000 comments published on NHS Choices with 220 rejected (4%) and 545 queried.
Dr John Milne, chair of the association’s General Dental Practice Committee, said dentists were concerned about malicious and sometimes fictitious feedback on the website and he hoped NHS Choices would take its concerns on board.
“Feedback is extremely valuable to dental practices because it helps to drive improvements… and dentists therefore welcome constructive comments from their patients,” he said.
“But malicious unattributed comments from individuals who may not even be patients at a practice are not only unhelpful, but could also be damaging.”
The BDA is also concerned that many primary care trusts appear to be retaining editing rights for practice profiles on the website. Practices were expecting to get the ability to edit profiles as the feedback functionality was rolled out.
A DH spokesman said “All comments are pre-moderated before publication on NHS Choices and providers are alerted when a comment is published so that they have the opportunity to respond. We have worked closely with professional groups on developing these patient feedback services.”
Comments about hospitals had by far the highest rejection rate with about 30,000 comments published and nearly 7,000 rejected – or 19%. Hospitals have made 2,500 queries about published comments.