Wednesday, 30 January 2013

NHS Choices Rejects Honest Patient Review of GPs

NHS Choices claims to be the "online 'front door' to the NHS" and to give you "information you need to make choices about your health" but nothing could be further from the truth especially in the case of apparent patient reviews of GPs.

The NHS website allows you to find a GP in your area and has information about what services the surgery offers and you can read reviews left by patients.  

You are asked to rate the GP practice in the following different areas with 1-5 stars:
  • How likely are you to recommend this GP surgery to friends and family if they needed similar care or treatment?
  • Are you able to get an appointment when you want one?
  • Do the staff treat you with dignity and respect?
  • Does the surgery involve you in decisions about your care and treatment?
  • This GP practice provides accurate and up to date information on services and opening hours
In addition to this you have the option of writing a review.  Sounds good, right?  Well, not when the reviews submitted are rejected if they are too negative or contain specific information.  A good review gives details of why a service or product is good or bad and yet this seems to be the exact thing that will ensure a review is not submitted on the NHS site.

I know this because I recently tried to leave a review for my old surgery and this is what I was sent back:

Thank you for contributing to the NHS Choices website. We have rejected your contribution because we consider it to be offensive to other site users, NHS staff or patients. Please see the site Terms and Conditions or refer to the Moderation Rules policy and consider reposting your comment. 

I wish I had kept a copy of exactly what I had submitted so I could repost it here, but it was so tame I did not think for one second that there would be an issue with it being rejected.  The review I left stated how long I had been with the surgery, and my experiences with the three doctors and the reception staff.  I did not use any rude or inflammatory language, and I gave examples in accordance with the areas I had been asked to rate.

If all I wrote was my experience at the surgery and if that factual, unembellished account was found to be offensive, then how do they think I feel as the patient who had to endure it?  
How can a review just be rejected as offensive when it has not even had the chance to offend anyone?  Especially as the surgery has the opportunity to publically respond to any reviews left on the site, so why not just publish the review and then allow the medical centre or GP in question to petition to have it removed if they really feel it is too offensive along with their reasons for this, as is done on other review sites?

I'm guessing the whole point of the review/rating system is to give future patients a good idea of what they can expect if they join that surgery.  But how can it do that when honest reviews are being rejected as offensive?  It makes the whole thing an exercise in futility and makes me wonder what is really being said about practices by patients that is just not being published.


  1. Interesting article, from the other side I work as a Practice Manager for a GP surgery. I found the NHS choices to be a forum for patients to complain, those that like the service do not feel compelled to write on it but those with a grievance do. Health is a complex matter especially those with long term conditions. I can tell you that it is immensley demoralising reading negative comments when you are only trying to do your best.

    1. Hi, and thank you for commenting. I can imagine it would be immensely demoralising to read negative comments, but that does not mean that they should not be left. Most of the reviews that are on the NHS Choices website are in fact positive. I was looking at joining a new surgery for the first time in my entire life and the surgeries I checked only had positive comments. However, after my experience, I wonder about all the negative comments that have not been published.

      I cannot claim to know your job and the difficulties you face, but as a patient I can say that if NHS Choices claims to offer a service, they should offer it, rather than only publishing the positive comments and giving a false impression, especially when the practice has the right and opportunity to respond to all comments left.


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