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NHS Choices removes 200 reviews over suspicions of practice staff involvement

Exclusive NHS Choices has removed almost 200 patient reviews of GP practices this year over suspicions of practice staff involvement.

One patient at a practice in Somerset was asked to prove that she was not an employee and did not have a connection with the surgery ‘beyond that of the normal patient-GP relationship’ after posting a five-star review on the site.

In a letter to the patient, NHS Choices threatened to reject the comment within seven days if no response was received.

It later told Pulse that it had removed almost 200 reviews this year over suspicions of staff involvement. It stressed it takes the 'integrity of these reviews seriously', and that these 200 would include positive and negative reviews that have been flagged as suspicious by users.

NHS Choices also emphasised that this represents 0.25% of the 80,000 reviews posted on the website.

However, local GP leaders said the practice of vetting positive comments is ‘extremely demeaning’ and suggests that GPs 'have got nothing better to do at this incredibly busy time'.

Karen Thompson, a patient at Tudor Lodge Surgery in Somerset, left a review of the practice in May, praising it for ‘the kind, caring and professionalism of all the staff’. 

However, NHS Choices then sent her an email, seen by Pulse, saying her comment had been ‘flagged up as it may have been written by a member of staff’ and it was removed from the site.

The email said: ‘Could you please confirm within seven days that you are not, nor have been in the past, employed by the surgery or have any other connection to the surgery beyond that of the normal patient-GP relationship.’

It added: ‘If I do not hear from you within the seven days then your comment will be rejected.’

Following clarification from Ms Thompson that she was a patient, the comment was republished on the site.

Ms Thompson said the email was ‘offensive’ and the intervention forced her to ‘question the validity’ of the site.

She said: ‘The NHS gets so much negative press that I just think you should be able to write positive things.’

Practice manager Suzie Heller, said: ‘It just makes my blood boil, how unfair the system is.’

She added: ‘It really knocks you when people make negative comments and then you just feel like weeping when you realise there’s actually a positive comment from a patient.’

GPs have long called for NHS Choices to be scrapped, with GPs voting in favour of a motion to remove ‘trivial complaints’ from NHS Choices at the most recent England LMCs conference.

Meanwhile, former RCGP chair Professor Clare Gerada has called for the site to be scrapped in a bid to improve GP morale.

GP practices have previously come under fire from the CQC’s chief inspector of primary care for creating false accounts and posting positive reviews on NHS Choices before their inspection.

However, Dr Mike Ingram, a Hertfordshire LMC member, told Pulse: ‘To actually find that positive reviews are suspected is extremely demeaning, and not only that, it suggests that general practices have got nothing better to do at this incredibly busy time, than to run around trying to generate artificial positive reviews like a naff restaurant on Tripadvisor.’

Dr Ingram, who argued against the England LMCs motion, said the situation is ‘a very cynical and sad reflection of the way general practice is viewed by others in the NHS’.

A spokesperson for NHS Choices said: ‘NHS Choices receives around 150,000 reviews a year. We take the integrity of these reviews seriously because they inform patient choices, so if a concern is raised about a review then we don’t publish it until we have investigated.

‘Our investigations involve contacting the person who posted the review as often there is simply a misunderstanding. Of the 3,400 issues we have investigated so far this year, we upheld around 58% of the concerns, with the other 42% published as swiftly as possible.’

 

Readers' comments (27)

  • IS IT OK FOR PATIENTS TO WRITE "FAKE" INFORMATION ABOUT GP PRACTICES OR LAUNCH PERSONAL ATTACKS ON CERTAIN GPs?

    NHS CHOICES REFUSE TO INTERVENE.

    IF A PATIENT MAKES FACTUALLY INCORRECT STATEMENTS ABOUT A PRACTICE-THIS SHOULD SURELY BE REMOVED??

    AND COMMENTS ABOUT INDIVIDUALS SHOULD ALSO BE REMOVED.

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  • 9:56 is absolutely on the mark. A patient blackmailing the Practice by smattering it on the web for not putting 'false' information on her report is allowed to comment and NHS Choices will not remove it. Instead they explain you have the 'right to respond.'
    Practice objections should be taken into account.
    Any Practice, however, vetting such behaviour of staff should result in investigation for dishonest dealings and even fraud under NHS Regulations so a handful of rotten apples do not bring the profession into disrepute.

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  • It is a disgrace the NHS Choice, it is totally unrepresentative of the practice patient feedback from other resources. Only those that have a gripe against the practice and believe you me sometimes its cultural make comments. They accepted and refused to remove a comment from a patient stating that our receptionist shut the phone on them forgetting to mention that the patient swore at them !!! I have written to my local MP about this and will go to the papers. Furthermore the cheeky bastards feel it is correct to state that a practice that has a score of 2 and a bit 'is one of the worse in the country', how in gods name are they getting away with that.Just demoralise us even more. It is not bloody trip advisor when are they gonna get it ?? sorry they already do of course. get it that is.

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  • NHS choices should be scrapped,on the other boot how do you know the negative comments are not vexatious individuals with fake feedback.Webhave had a review from a patient not registered with the practice for a long time.All comments can also hide behind anonymity,you will probably also find a lot have not complained directly to the practice.In an underfunded system patients unhappy should be able to move,but with a shortage of GPS there is often a lack of choice.All NHS choices seems to be donis reducing choice and quality as as many GPS as possible get out or are planning an escape ASAP.

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  • Interesting. When we received an anonymous posting I asked what checks were made to ensure the poster was actually a patient at the practice. I was told that anyone can post on any site.

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  • Question I would like to ask NHS choices is , Do they write to patient who post -ve comments to conform authenticity of their negative remarks,
    If answer is no then they have no business to question authenticity of positive remarks.
    otherwise scrap the whole feedback thing.

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  • This epitomises everything that is wrong with NHS Choices. We had a new patient turn up half an hour late for their first ever appointment, just as we were closing (18h25). She had a non-urgent issue, so we asked her to rebook. The next day she wrote a long criticism of our practice listing all our faults. She had never got beyond the waiting room! We answered her points in a constructive way and were told by NHS England to take our comments off as the "patient must be allowed to state their opinion".
    The whole system is so open to fraud in both directions as to make it totally meaningless.

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  • Further to my comments above I told NHS choice we would install cameras and telephone recording to prove our point. well guess what we had another ridiculous comment on NHS Choice. Because the hand gesture from our receptionist on the phone asking him to sit and wait for her to finish talking on the phone was deemed so offensive he made a negative comment. What the F, we have caught this on video and I will ensure i use it as evidence against this most politically derisive methods used yet by the government. Which we all know is what it is.

    But who the hell do you trust to look after your back not the left not the right not the center and certainly not the LMC or BMA who are a bunch of self serving c, and done nothing of any meaningfulness in all the years I have been a GP, Puppets and career merchants clearly. We have nobody except ourselves to fight the system, and unfortunatey many of you are not up for the fight so it is almost a dead cause.

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  • Meanwhile there is a review taking place on how to reinvigorate general practice Partnerships. Chaps, stop looking at the desk, look up, look around.

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  • I hope that was tongue in cheek

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