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Darzi and top DH officials backed iwantgreatcare

Iwantgreatcare.org, the controversial website allowing patients to rate individual doctors was set up with ‘enthusiastic' behind-the-scenes support from the Department of Health, Pulse can reveal.

Figures in the highest echelons of the DH have discussed iwantgreatcare website with its founder Dr Neil Bacon – and even offered to fund an assessment of it.

The site was set up as a private venture, but emails released under the Freedom of Information Act reveal senior figures including Lord Darzi have given it their strong backing.

The news comes just a week after it emerged that four PCTs and two acute trusts are to hire the website to monitor patient experience and help performance manage GPs.

The DH has previously appeared keen to distance itself from the site, which allows patients to anonymously rate and comment on individual GPs and has attracted a storm of protest from GP leaders and threats of legal action.

But the emails obtained by Pulse reveal Lord Darzi has closely monitored the site's progress as the Government's own patient feedback site, NHS Choices, takes shape.

The DH took eight months to respond to our FOI request and is still refusing to release three pages of emails.

Dr Bacon first outlined his ideas on patient feedback when he met Lord Darzi in December 2007, and has since met at least six times with senior figures such as Mark Britnell, director general of commissioning and system management, Mary Simpson, deputy director for patient and public empowerment and Lord Darzi himself.

Dr Bacon emailed Lord Darzi in March 2008, reporting Mr Britnell had ‘given me his support.'

‘Seeing patient-reported outcome as a vital part of commissioning, he has offered to fund an assessment of my venture,' he wrote. ‘Indeed, he was nearly as enthusiastic as you about this at last becoming reality.'

Lord Darzi replied: ‘I do like the proposed and will be interested to see what the reaction will be.'

Dr John Gallagher, a GP in Southampton who has been given a 50% rating on the site despite being unaware he was listed, said Lord Darzi had been ‘naïve' to back the site and that patient feedback sites had to tread a ‘fine line'.

‘There's some patients with mental health problems daft enough to put anything they want online,' he said.

A Department of Health spokeswoman said it had not funded an evaluation of iwantgreatcare, but supported the general principle of patient feedback and believed NHS Choices was the perfect vehicle for this.

'The ability to bring together information from regulators and individual patient feedback in a simple, understandable format means that NHS Choices is unique in the service it provides to patients and the public and supporting their right to free choice'.

www.iwantgreatcare.org declined to comment.

EMAIL EXTRACTS

Neil Bacon to Lord Darzi, 28 March 2008


‘Your encouragement and interest in this concept has been a major motivator for me in taking the plunge to create this new venture – and indeed to finance it myself…


Mark Britnell has given me his support. Seeing patient-reported outcome as a vital part of commissioning, he has offered to fund an assessment of my venture. Indeed, he was nearly as enthusiastic as you.'


Lord Darzi to Neil Bacon, 10 April 2008


‘I do like the proposed and will be interested to see what the reaction will be…'

Dr Neil Bacon, founder of iwantgreatcare.org, was given backing by Lord Darzi and senior officials Dr Neil Bacon, founder of iwantgreatcare.org, was given backing by Lord Darzi and senior officials

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