GP comparison websites set up across the country by Healthwatch
Exclusive New ‘Trip Advisor-style’ GP practice comparison websites have been set up in 15 areas across England by a health and social care watchdog, using patient survey data and publicising local and national news stories about practices.
Regional branches of Healthwatch - which is the Government mandated ‘consumer champion for health and social care’ - have set up their own websites that allow patients to rate their practices in a similar way to that of NHS Choices.
However, the websites go further, providing information on practices’ patient survey scores and offering information on their access.
GP leaders say that the sites could be used as ‘a stick to beat GPs’.
This comes after the CQC withdrew its ‘risk ratings’, based on GP patient survey and QOF scores, after a backlash from GPs complaining that the data it is based on did not reflect the practice’s performance.
The Government is also setting up a ‘Trip-Advisor style’ website, which was due to use the CQC’s intelligent monitoring data.
However, the Healthwatch websites go further than these, including elements such as:
- A database of national and local news stories about practices likely to be of interest to patients, including coverage of CQC reports;
- A Trip-Advisor review system, with patients rating them between one and five stars in six categories – cleanliness, staff attitude, waiting time, treatment explanation, quality of care and quality of food. Many of the reviews are left anonymously;
- Healthwatch Central Bedfordshire provides patients with advice on making complaints;
- Surveys of patients on local health services which can be undertaken through the surveymonkey website, with Healthwatch Solihull providing a link to a GP patient survey which is 44 questions long
The latest website to go live is ‘Comparedrs.com’ in Sandwell, West Midlands, launched on 20 March, which will be mostly factual information, a spokesman said.
Comparedrs.com will have information on whether surgeries provide Skype consultations, male or female doctors, parking for disabled people or interpreting services. Another section details whether a practice offers on-site blood tests, what clinical services are available and what specialist knowledge GPs have.
Healthwatch Sandwell chief executive Mark Guest said: ‘If you can help people to understand what’s available at practices then this will help the GPs. Patients will have a better understanding of what services are being provided.’
But Sandwell LMC chair Dr Ray Sullivan warned: ‘I’m a bit dubious about this because these websites are very little help. If the website can highlight areas where improvement is needed and focus our CCG on giving extra support for practices – like funding for providing blood tests – then I am fine with that.
‘But for this website they come and see patients and ask how long they have been waiting and what they think of GPs’ services. There’s plenty about that already with satisfaction surveys and QOF results. We don’t need another stick to beat GPs.’
Dr Robert Morley executive secretary of Birmingham LMC said that there was no need for websites to compare GP practices.
He added: ‘My concern is that some of the information on comparison websites is misleading or that it will have no value whatsoever. There are all sorts of reasons why one practice might perform differently to another – they may have completely different practice lists’
Dr Katherine Rake, chief executive of Healthwatch England said: ‘By helping people to know what services are on offer we can ensure people are going to the right place to get the care and support they need. As well as signposting, Healthwatch is constantly exploring new ways of collecting feedback from people about their experiences. Using this evidence they can identify areas of good practice and where improvement is needed, then work with GPs and surgeries to make things better.’
Healthwatch is a charity established under the Health and Social Care Act 2012 to protect patients through testing of products and procedure, and promote evidence-based medicine.
Healthwatch websites containing sections for comparing GP performance