By Christian Duffin
GPs are likely to become the victims of ‘deliberately false’ or misleading online comments on patient websites such as NHS Choices in the same way that some hotels can be smeared by malicious online reviewers on travel websites, say legal experts.
The Medical Protection Society (MPS) made the claim in its response to the Government consultation ‘Liberating the NHS: An Information Revolution’, which considers whether patients have enough control and choice regarding their care.
The defence body says that under the ‘any willing provider’ model of procurement there greater potential for problems with online rating sites as GPs’ competitors seek to gain an unfair advantage by providing false information, the MPS suggests.
The MPS’s response reads: ‘We note that…feedback from the travel and leisure industry about such sites is beginning to flag up a number of issues related to inaccurate or deliberately false information being placed on such sites. Similarly, there are real concerns about this in relation to sites regarding health, especially mental health.’
The MPS called for ‘clear safeguards and monitoring’ and ‘sanctions for deliberate misuse’ on ‘feedback’ websites.
In response to a question about the relative merits of online communications or email consultations with GPs, the MPS said: ‘We consider there are inherent risks in on-line access to health professionals. Firstly it may increase demands on clinician time. Secondly, it may lead to unrealistic expectations; just because an email can be despatched immediately does not mean an immediate response is necessary or possible.
‘We do not believe that this should in any way substitute for face-to-face consultations which is a core component of medical care.’
GPs at risk of ‘deliberate smears’ under Government IT plans