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NHS Choices ranks Darzi centres top

Exclusive: Darzi centres consistently outperform the average GP practice on the ratings website NHS Choices and are almost 50% more likely to be recommended by patients, with comments praising ease of access and appointment availability, a Pulse analysis shows.

An investigation looking at the ratings of 42 GP-led health centres found an average of 65% of patients would recommend a GP-led health centre to a friend, compared to 45% for all GP practices. Darzi centres also scored higher on telephone access and appointment availability.

But the analysis also found that GP surgeries run by private firms scored lower than average, with the ratings of 45 such practices showing that only 41% of patients would recommend them to a friend compared with the national average of 45%. Privately-run practices fared significantly worse on questions asking whether patients were treated with dignity and respect and involved in decisions about their care (see box below).

After Pulse approached one private firm running a nationwide network of GP practices with the results of this investigation, the company promised to launch its own inquiry into why they were rated so poorly. Just 27% of patients leaving comments on 30 of the surgeries run by The Practice Plc said they would recommend them to a friend.

A spokesperson for The Practice said: 'We take data like this extremely seriously and will of course be looking into these new figures immediately. We pride ourselves on our patient-centric approach and are regularly informed of our patients' experiences through our own surveys and mystery patient exercises, as well as the quarterly National Patient Experience Survey.'

Dr Bashir Dodhy, a GP in Hayes, Middlesex, said the runaway success of Darzi centres on the website raised questions about the validity of online feedback.

'One must take everything seen on this sort of thing with a pinch of salt,' he said. 'Basically, people who want to compliment any service, they usually compliment it when they are there. It takes an effort for anyone to do any complimenting online. So people who are quite vocal and have had a bad experience will pass comment quite easily.'

'If you ask a GP about their own surgery survey it almost always much, much better than the one that is carried out nationally.'

Dr Helena McKeown, a GPC member and GP in Salisbury said: ‘We could potential be providing better care for those people who need it least if we're worried about the feedback left on NHS choices, rather than concentrating our efforts on who the inverse care law tells us need it most, the oldest and those with the poorest health.'

But a DH spokesperson said there was 'strong evidence' that feedback left on NHS Choices had led to improvements in services, such as the hiring of extra nurses.

'All feedback on the site is independently moderated against strict criteria,' she said.