Healthwatch Sandwell has set up a GP practice comparison website including information on how long it takes to get an appointment.
Fourteen other local Healthwatch branches have set up ‘Feedback Centres’ on their websites, covering all health and social care services, which allow patients to give a star rating to individual providers.
Sandwell Healthwatch chief executive Mark Guest told EHI News Comparedrs.com is different from the other 14 as it is a completely separate website and does not include patient ratings.
The others, covering areas such as Birmingham and Wolverhampton, are described as ‘Trip Advisor-style’ sites where patients can rate their practice, hospital or dentist from one to five stars in various categories.
Guest said a number of sites already provide an outlet for patient feedback so Sandwell decided to provide a more objective and informative service.
He explained that his organisation listened to patients’ feedback regarding primary care services and discovered that while most were happy with their GP practice, there were issues regarding how services are provided.
Comparedrs.com includes information on 39 practices out of 65 in the region so far, covering information about booking, waiting times, clinical services and whether the practice has an online prescription service.
Guest said more are in the process of completing Healthwatch’s request for information and the organisation is looking at how to cover those practices which have not responded.
He said the information will be updated every six months, in comparison with NHS Choices where data can be years old.
As well as requesting information, Healthwatch Sandwell staff visited every surgery to ask patients how long on average it takes to get an appointment and how long they have to wait once they are at the practice.
The site has had a few hundred hits since its launch late last month and Guest expects usage to increase once the promotional campaign gets underway.
“We don’t expect people to need it all the time, but we want it to be there when they do need it,” he said.
He added that local GPs had been concerned before the launch that it would be a patient-review site, but are happier since seeing it.
Sandwell’s initiative reflects a trend amongst local Healthwatch offices towards hosting their own patient feedback services.
Dr Katherine Rake, chief executive of Healthwatch England said that informing people about what services are on offer helps to ensure they are going to the right place to get the care and support they need.
“As well as signposting, Healthwatch is constantly exploring new ways of collecting feedback from people about their experiences. Using this evidence they can identify areas of good practice and where improvement is needed, then work with GPs and surgeries to make things better,” she said.
Healthwatch England is the national consumer champion in health and care.