A multi-channel patient feedback service developed by NHS England is going live in 18 trusts in London and the North within a week.
Care Connect allows patients to go online, ring a telephone number, text or use social media to log concerns that need resolving, ask a question or provide feedback on their experiences.
These will be published online and where necessary, passed on to providers to respond.
Jane Barnacle, London’s regional director for patients and information, said 16 trusts in London and two in the North are piloting the service. They include a range of acute, community and mental health providers.
Website access will initially be via NHS Choices or myhealthlondon, but will ultimately become part of the integrated customer service platform being developed by the NHS England.
A central team of existing call handlers from NHS Choices and NHS Direct will monitor the various channels patients can use to interact with the service. In some cases they will answer questions themselves, or they will pass the issue on to the trust involved.
Trusts are expected to respond using their existing patient liaison teams.
Patients with an issue or complaint that requires a response must raise it via the website or a telephone call and provide contact details so the trust can get in touch.
An online map will show where complaints are live around the country. Trusts can update this information to show that they are working on the issue or that is has been resolved.
Care Connect has been built by mySociety using open source architecture. Barnacle says the second phase of the project will go out to tender.
“We used open source architecture so we can be quite agile in how we develop it so we can ask the market to help us continually improve it,” she explained.
The aim is to be able to pull feeds from other feedback providers into a central portal.
Trusts piloting Care Connect will have posters and use social media and other communications to promote it to patients.
The plan is to have all trusts live with the service by the end of next February. NHS England is also working to adapt it to make it suitable for other providers such as GPs and local authorities.
The pilots will be used to assess the demand from patients and resources needed to meet that.
Barnacle emphasised that this is not a clinical service, but is primarily to help patients navigate their way through the NHS.
“A lot of the public say they don’t want to make a formal complaint, just some help sorting things out,” she explained.
The original plan was to use the NHS 111 service to answer calls, but problems with the 111 deployment mean Care Connect will initially have its own telephone line.
Functionality will allow trusts to remove comments from the live site if they are vexatious.
Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust is one of the pilot sites.
The trust’s board papers say the cost of the service is being met by NHS England and providers are required to respond to demand using existing resources.
“For ICHT this will initially be the PALS and out-of-hours services with support from the Complaints and Patient Experience teams. The service will be backed 24/7 across London by a central team of case handlers who will moderate the postings and ‘triage’ any urgent issues,” the papers say.
Other trusts involved are:
Chelsea and Westminster Hospital NHS Foundation Trust
Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust
North East London NHS Foundation Trust
Royal Free London NHS Foundation Trust
The Whittington Hospital NHS Trust
North Middlesex University Hospital NHS Trust
South West London and St George’s Mental Health NHS Trust
St George’s Healthcare NHS Trust
Central London Community Healthcare NHS Trust
Kingston Hospital NHS Foundation Trust
Epsom and St Helier University Hospitals NHS Trust
Moorfields Eye Hospital NHS Foundation Trust
The Royal Marsden NHS Foundation Trust
Hounslow and Richmond Community Healthcare NHS Trust
Great Ormond Street Children’s Hospital NHS Trust
Gateshead Health NHS Foundation Trust
The Newcastle upon Tyne Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust