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At the heart of general practice since 1960

Flaws in the scores

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Like a lot of people, I’m a bit confused about the NHS decision to allow people to score their GP practice ‘out of 10’ on their Choices website.

Consider the following differing responses to the same scenarios:

Appointment:

“I waited a few days to get an appointment. I could have taken an emergency slot, but I am grateful they are there for a time I might really need it. 8/10”

“I waited a few days to get an appointment which I am pretty cross about really. The thing I wanted to see him for really can’t wait. 4/10”

Explanation:

“The doctor took time to explain what was going on. I know she meant well, but I have heard most of it before, I didn't have time to sit and chat. 4/10”

“The doctor took time to explain what was going on. No one had done that with me before. 8/10”

Opening times:

            “Early is great, I can still get plenty done in my day. 8/10”

            “I can never get from work to the practice with those hours. 3/10”

A number doesn't really tell you much. Yet numbers, percentages and graphs please a convenience-oriented culture that doesn't have time to wade through the prose of something more detailed.

Online feedback is easy, instant, permanent, and largely negative. My wife and I recently checked out some restaurant reviews online. One simply read ‘spring rolls too small. Poor value.’ Facebook gets around this problem by reducing the ‘leave a comment’ aspect of its site to just one click - either you ‘like’ or ‘dislike’ something.

I’m not trying to be patronising towards patients here. My point is we tend to be careless in our approach to ratings systems, which ultimately reduces their usefulness. I know patient experience is difficult to quantify, but I don’t like the idea that the future of general practice is best judged by an online form.

Dr Martin Wicks is a GPST1 in Bristol

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