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.
© 2012 EHealth Media.
They still don't understand customer service, do they!PSingleton 115 weeks ago
I am appalled that patient comments are rejected if disrespectful or abusive - edited, modified, or moderated would be fine, but rejected?!
This is just a case of 'speak no evil, see no evil, hear no evil' and preferring not to see that there might just be a problem.
Most patients are just that: patient - so it takes quite a lot to get them to log-on and register a complaint, by which time they are quite likely to be pretty cross. If they have had bad service or treatment from the NHS, then they are very unlikely to be 'respectful' of whomever gave that bad service.
Being abusive is not helpful, I quite agree, but abusive terminology is easily removed or edited out, leaving the core complaint behind.
Most customer service lines are geared up to receiving angry customers, but they make a point of listening and responding wherever possible - well, at least the good ones do. Some calls are from those where nothing can be done, but if you only listen to the 'nice' calls then you won't learn the truth about what really needs fixing.
It is clear that dealing with anonymous complaints is hard on a case-by-case basis, but there are really very few people who are simply malicious or time-wasters, so one should pay attention where large numbers of people are making complaints - particularly if they seem to feel pretty aggrieved.
As TripAdvisor shows there are real problems over handling online anonymous reports, but then one should perhaps seek to getting more direct feedback from patients in the first place. I have grave doubts about NHS Surveys, since a relative was mistreated, but they carefully asked the other 5 people in the ward for their opinion, but avoided my relative as they didn't want a black mark. Another example of game-playing rather than actually listening to patients.
It really is about time the medical professions started facing up to quality problems rather than seeking to maintain their 'respect' - true respect is earned by doing the right thing, not by avoiding hearing unpleasant news
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