Online patient reviews in “transparency” question

The NHS has removed hundreds of patient reviews of a healthcare trust from its website, after BBC’s Newsnight programme found that the system could be open to abuse.

The programme found that in 2013, 49% of patient reviews on the NHS Choices website – 105 of 216 – about Nottinghamshire Healthcare Trust had in fact come from staff accounts. Almost half of those accounts had not declared a conflict of interest. 

It is known that NHS members of staff often help patients who are unable to post reviews themselves, including those with mental health problems, learning difficulties, the elderly, or those without internet access. However the trust agreed that it needed to be clearer about who wrote them.

Most of the reviews posted without staff declaring a conflict of interest were from staff accounts that at other times had declared themselves when posting reviews on the behalf of patients. 

The reviews, originally posted to independent feedback website Patient Opinion, had been syndicated to appear on the NHS Choices website. 

A spokesman for Nottinghamshire Healthcare NHS Trust said: “We acknowledge that postings need to be clearer about who is writing them and we are working on a solution for this, internally and with Patient Opinion.

“We have created a public website so that anyone can see what is being said about our services because we want to be open and honest about the feedback we receive.”

Neil Churchill, director of patient experience for NHS England, said: “The issue here is transparency.”