The NHS has plans to establish a patient feedback website, styled after the travel site TripAdvisor to allow patients to post complaints online. Such complaints could include posting potentially derogatory comments about medical staff and show hospitals’ responses to them in real time.
Tim Kelsey, the NHS director in charge of patients and information, said after a three month trial involving 20 hospital trusts, complaints and reviews were logged, mapped and dealt with, night and day, in London and the north-east. As a result the scheme will be rolled out nationally next year. He stated that serious issues had already been tackled using the system. For example, there was one instance when an elderly patient recovering from a cancer operation had been “left without morphine for a few hours – something she needed every four to five minutes“. Her daughter posted on the website that “the surgeon came into the room and not only berated the staff again but said ‘this unit is really going downhill’.
Tim Kelsey said that this was not about “naming and shaming” but instead allowed the NHS trust in question to contact the patient within hours of the complaint, before escalating it to the patient liaison service within 48 hours.
The Patients Association charity recently published its annual study which highlighted stories from patients and their families. The report said that many parts of the NHS had “lost their way” and the NHS often forgot that “care and compassion should be at the heart of what staff do.”
Kelsey expressed the importance of openness and transparency in the NHS to create ‘a 24/7 modern consumer health service’. The NHS had to innovate in terms of patient safety, especially since the Francis inquiry into the appalling care at Mid Staffs hospital concluded that the health service must become more open and transparent and “embody a duty of candour.”
The British Medical Association had concerns that comments would be patrolled effectively. A spokesman said, “it’s important that comments that are defamatory, or which threaten the confidentiality of other patients, are screened out and consideration is given to how patients might interact with the service using social media.”
The website has cost £150,000 to set up and the plan is to bring in a private company eventually to run the service. The NHS deals with over 1 million patients every 36 hours but officials are confident that it can handle the volumes of complaints.