BMJ 2014;348:g2279 doi: 10.1136/bmj.g2279 (Published 21 March 2014)

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NEWS NHS staff posted online patient reviews Jacqui Wise London

Half of the reviews by patients of Nottinghamshire Healthcare Trust on the NHS Choices website came from staff accounts, a BBC investigation has shown. In response to the finding, changes have been made to make it clear who is posting feedback.

The BBC news programme Newsnight found that 105 of 216 reviews about the trust had come from staff accounts. Almost half of these (47%) did not declare a conflict of interest. The reviews were originally submitted to the independent feedback website Patient Opinion and then posted on NHS Choices. As a result of the investigation NHS Choices removed all but one of 653 patient reviews of Nottinghamshire Healthcare Trust.

Patient Opinion said that staff at the trust posted comments on behalf of patients and carers because they often needed help to get their voices heard. It said that many service users had mental health problems or learning difficulties. Some were in environments with no direct internet access, such as local prisons or Rampton psychiatric hospital. And some were elderly or disabled and had no experience of computers. A spokesman for Patient Opinion said that such feedback had led to real time improvements and was something to celebrate, not disparage. However, he acknowledged, “Newsnight is right about one thing though: we need to show clearly when a story has been posted with help from staff. Transparency is essential to the work of Patient Opinion.” He said that the site had now been updated to show clearly when a story had been added by staff on behalf of a patient or carer.

A spokeswoman for Nottinghamshire Healthcare Trust said that it was aiming to be the most open and responsive trust in the NHS and that its public website included 19 482 comments on ways to improve services. “We are trying to pioneer something that is intrinsically difficult: hearing the views of people with health problems of varying kinds.” She added, “It is not any intention to mislead or create a false impression.” The trust was not alone in including reviews posted by staff but was most frequently flagged up by the Newsnight investigation. The team analysed 7333 reviews submitted to Patient Opinion and found that 6% had been posted from NHS computers. Ten per cent of these were critical of a trust or hospital, whereas a quarter of the reviews as a whole were critical.

The findings came as the NHS prepares to roll out its own feedback service, Care Connect. Currently it is live only in parts of London and the north east of England. It allows patients to leave online reviews of their experiences and award star ratings to services.

Neil Churchill, director of patient experience for NHS England, told Newsnight that “the vast majority of comments were clearly coming from patients or their carers.” But he said that it had suspended the comments from Patient Opinion on the NHS Choices website until it could be made clear whether feedback came from patients or staff. “The issue here is transparency,” he said. Cite this as: BMJ 2014;348:g2279 © BMJ Publishing Group Ltd 2014

For personal use only: See rights and reprints


BMJ 2014;348:g2279 doi: 10.1136/bmj.g2279 (Published 21 March 2014)

Page 2 of 2



For personal use only: See rights and reprints


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