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CQC trawling through 6,000 comments a month on patient websites

The CQC is systematically trawling through thousands of comments about GP practices on patient websites to flag up ‘negative’ posts for its intelligent monitoring scheme.

A report published by the National Audit Office on the CQC’s performance reveals how the CQC is searching through ‘around 6,000’ patient comments each month on websites including NHS Choices, Patient Opinion and its own site.

The CQC uses the negative comments – which includes all healthcare providers – to ‘identify risk in intelligent monitoring reports’, which ultimately contributes to how GP practices are prioritised for inspection, the report said.  

When the CQC introduced intelligent monitoring for GP practices last November, the regulator did not state that it would use website posts, saying it would be based on QOF, the GP patient survey, HSCIC indicator portal, hospital episode statistics and an analysis of electronic prescribing analysis and costs.

And last year, the CQC’s chief inspector of general practice, Professor Steve Field, said the CQC put little stock into comments on patient websites, claiming that failing GP practices were creating false accounts and posting positive reviews on NHS Choices before their CQC inspection.

But the NAO’s report, published this week, stated: ‘Each month the Commission manually codes around 6,000 comments from the public on websites like NHS Choices, Patient Opinion and its own Share Your Experience.

‘It uses negative comments to identify risk in intelligent monitoring reports. Even at these volumes there are many providers with few or no comments, particularly for adult social care and GPs.’

The CQC’s GP intelligent monitoring scheme became marred in controversy after the regulator admitted that there was errors with the data it had used, and was forced to make revisions to the indicators.

In March this year, the CQC bowed to intense pressure from the GPC and RCGP to drop the ‘risk banding’ element of its intelligent monitoring scheme - after the regulator conceded that it recognised the public would have perceived the publication of the ‘risk bandings’ as a judgement of the quality of care.

The CQC has recently said that practices’ intelligent monitoring reports will be updated later in the summer, after the regulator insisted that it will change the language it has previously used ‘so that it does not imply a risk to patient safety.’

Dr Rob Barnett, secretary for Liverpool LMC told Pulse that if the CQC is going to gather negative comments on practices, it should include positive comments too, otherwise the process risks giving a false impression of the provider.

He added: ‘I think that if the CQC are specifically looking for patient comments, I would be hoping that they would be weighing negative against positive. It’s like Trip Advisor - if you look on NHS Choices, you do get positive comments and negative comments.

‘But the positive comments should outweigh the negative ones, because people often find it easy to put negative comments – but people go out of their way to put positive comments – so I believe that positive comments actually have more validity than negative ones.

‘If the CQC is only interested in one set of comments, I think it’s giving a false impression of the situation. I found nothing intelligent about CQC intelligent monitoring; it’s an abuse of the word intelligent.’

The NAO report also said that the CQC had ‘underestimated how long it would take to train staff and carry out inspections’ under its new inspection regime - which has subsequently seen the regulator defer the initial date it had planned to inspect all GP practices by nearly eight months to 1 October 2016.

Readers' comments (40)

  • "The NAO report also said that the CQC had ‘underestimated how long it would take to train staff and carry out inspections’ under its new inspection regime"

    Hmm, it sounds like the organisation is lacking in leadership and planning. Is there a regulator I can complain to?

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  • 0.00006% is comments/consultations rate since NHS choices began. I cannot take seriously an organisation that can view this as evidence and that's not even considering the bias.

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  • One of our recent online complaints is that the GP surgery is terrible because they have tried to organise physiotherapy on several occasions and it has taken weeks for the appointments to arrive. The appointment was inconvenient and the surgery was inflexible at changing them. etc etc etc

    That would be the physio organised by a different provider using our building. It was politely pointed out by our practice manager in their reply.

    But, I have no idea how the CQC will manage this comment - because basically it is doing this in secret. I do not realise why that is happening. Surely they should be contacting each surgery every time they identify a comment as a risk - so that the surgery can defend themselves against inappropriate/ malicious comments - but instead they decide to do it in secret.

    Amateurish, unprofessional and simply unfair.

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  • Akin to Witchfinders. They will be dunikng us in ponds next..
    And how have they assessed the validity and reliability of this evidence? Can they point to the research please.

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  • I presume that our "leader" in the BMA, LMCs and RCGP are happy with the actions of the CID of the CQC.

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  • Do what I always did: set up fake hotmail IDs and put in loads of positive reviews about your practice!

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  • Stazi tactics in a communist system.East Germany eventually crumbled,and thus th NHS will do the same run in this manner.

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  • This comment has been removed by the moderator.

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  • Azeem Majeed

    In a study published in 2012, I examined patient comments on NHS Choices. My colleagues and I concluded that:

    "The frequency of patients rating their family physicians on the Internet is variable in England, but the ratings are generally positive and are moderately associated with other measures of patient experience and weakly associated with clinical quality."

    Journal of Medical Internet Research

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  • And what, pray, do they intend to do about the negative comments flying around about about Jeremy Hunt? Or is it one rule for some, and a different rule for another?

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