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GP ratings boost traffic on NHS Choices

By Gareth Iacobucci

The Government's NHS Choices website has seen a surge in popularity since the introduction of controversial GP practice ratings, new figures show.

Almost 350,000 patients are now viewing ratings of GPs and hospitals every month, following the launch of a tool allowing users to post comments about their GP practice.

The launch has led to a spike in new users for the site, with an extra 50,000 people logging on per week since GP ratings were introduced in October.

Since the GP service was launched, there have been 5,700 comments posted about GP practices.

Although initial figures showed that 80% of patients had responded positively to their practice, GP leaders have warned the tool is too crude, and could damage good practices with unrepresentative and malicious comments.

Speaking at a Westminster Health Forum event on patient choice, Jonathon Carr-Brown, innovation and strategy director at NHS Choices, said that the 'Tripadvisor approach' had proved popular wiht patients.

‘We copied the way people compare holidays and cars to the realm of GP practices and hospitals,' he said. 'We saw an exponential jump in usage when we did that: very quickly we had 10,000 people a week looking at it, then it rose to 30,000 people when we changed the hospital presentation, then 80,000 a week when we changed the GP presentation.'

He admitted the site still had some way to go before it could justifiably claim to have improved patient choice, but insisted the recent upsurge in users suggested it could have a ‘potentially enormous' impact on patient choice.

He said: ‘Awareness of NHS Choices is very limited, only 4% of the population know we exist so that makes it quite hard to judge whether we're having an impact. The concept of choice also isn't ingrained.'

‘I think we've got the presentation right but we still don't have the penetration or the awareness to actually make it really effective and we still don't know how people are using it to make choice.'

He quipped: ‘There's still lots of unknowns, it's a very Donald Rumsfeld discussion, this.'

He added that initial research suggested people using the site were more interested in gaining information on choice of treatment rather than choice of provider.

Hospital and GP ratings on NHS Choices have led to a surge in user figures Hospital and GP ratings on NHS Choices have led to a surge in user figures

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