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Patient feedback for the YouTube generation

It’s a story for our times. Patient goes to surgery. Patient has to queue outside surgery. Patient takes video footage of queue outside surgery. Patient uploads video to Youtube. Hundreds of patients view video, alert BBC.

By Steve Nowottny

It's a story for our times. Patient goes to surgery. Patient has to queue outside surgery. Patient takes video footage of queue outside surgery. Patient uploads video to Youtube. Hundreds of patients view video, alert BBC.

Within a few hours, it's gone national. GPC deputy chair Dr Richard Vautrey is dragged to a TV studio to explain why patients have to queue. And your surgery is plastered all over the BBC website with patient after patient explaining why it's impossible to get through on the phone lines.

Paranoid fantasy? Actually, it happened this week, to Dr John Barley, of the Dinnington Group Practice in Dinnington, near Sheffield.

The YouTube video has now been taken down after complaints, quite possibly from other patients in the queue concerned that their confidentiality had been violated by being filmed. But the BBC video remains, and the damage is done.

Dr Barley explained, of course, the difficulties faced by the surgery, the efforts they had made to improve access and that the practice had recruited two new members of staff to answer the phones. But somehow the interviews with angry members of the public who explained they had been forced to queue for 40 minutes in the cold because the phone lines are always engaged leave a more lasting impression.

It was no doubt unfair to single out a particular practice, but for GPs the story should act as a terrible warning on the growing power of online patient opinion.

With sites like www.iwantgreatcare.org already up and running, and NHS Choices to allow practice rating from the summer, this kind of instantaneous, globally-accessible feedback is likely to become more and more common.

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