Dealing with personal attacks when “doing the right thing”
One of my core values is that the public should have the freedom to express their opinion on public services and on those who are paid to provide such services. It is my belief that transparency and honesty – combined with focus on the needs of the public – is the only way to improve quality and value of public services. This value underpins iWantGreatCare – the business I founded to allow patients and the public to rate and review the healthcare they receive.
As one might imagine there exists a tiny (unrepresentative) minority of doctors who are opposed to the idea of a website where patients can record their experience of the care provided by their doctor, and which allows patients to make suggestions on how the doctor could improve the service they provide.
When iWantGreatCare was launched in 2008 I was subjected to a sustained, pathetic, personal attack by a handful of these “fringe-doctors“. This was conducted online, in the media and through many obscene emails and letters sent to my home. The majority of the criticism did not discuss the service or concept, but merely consisted of childish attacks on me personally, overt physical-threats or (anonymous) defamatory letters sent to senior members of the medical profession.
My absolute conviction that patients have the right to pass opinion on those whose salaries are paid by their taxes, combined with my awareness (as a doctor) that too many patients receive very poor care from their healthcare providers – gave me the self-belief and confidence to cope with these cowardly attacks. At no time did I consider “backing-down” or giving in to a minority of unrepresentative individuals – rather it increased my resolve to help make care truly patient-centric. For the last eighteen months I have aimed to be “relentlessly reasonable” in helping patients provide honest and open feedback on the services they receive, to give them a voice as “armchair auditors” and to ensure such information is used by the NHS to improve the quality of care.
iWantGreatCare is now the UK’s leading resource for patients to provide direct feedback on the complete range of healthcare provision (medical, dental, pharmacy, residential care), and has contracts with a range of NHS organisations to help them improve quality and patient experience. I must stress that the vast majority of doctors have no problem whatsoever with iWantGreatCare or with open, secure feedback from their patients – indeed many now use it as part of their efforts to continuously improve what they do.