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The public sector needs direct, honest, independent user assessment

January 9, 2010

…and needs to stop deleting those opinions it doesn’t like, or which are critical.

You need to be sitting down before you read this, it comes direct from the “surely, they are making this up?” category.

Only under this Labour Government could the following happen:
1. Set up a website allowing patients to comment on their NHS care
2. Claim (with a straight face) that such user reviews will help patients find and choose the best care
3. Delete comments that are critical of the NHS care
4. Claim that because “most comments” are positive the NHS is great and we should all be happy and grateful.

Thanks to the ever-excellent Phil Hammond for his recent Private Eye article, brilliantly demolishing any last vestige of credibility for ratings and reviews on NHS Choices, as well as giving a classic example of why the government cannot be trusted to run websites which assess, rate and review the very public-sector services it provides.

A larger, and very real, worry is that doctors and managers could be mislead into thinking they are doing well when in fact the truth is being hidden from them. Hospital disasters revealed this year, such as Mid-Staffs and Basildon, illustrate just how vital it is that those delivering NHS services have a full, honest and real-time awareness of the outcomes of their activity. NHS Choices is clearly hiding this not only from patients and the public, but also from those desperately trying to improve quality in difficult times.

Of course none of this is a surprise to any right-thinking person, I have been quoted many times as saying that this would be the inevitable consequence of the Government (Department of Health) controlling and editing its own review sites (and I am no rocket-scientist!). This is one of the reasons I helped found iWantGreatCare – to stop the wasting of millions of pounds of tax-payers money (better spent on direct healthcare?) on something that would never work. Whilst this Government continues to throw money away on NHS Choices, it is reassuring to see the Conservative’s have no intention of maintaining this shameless, ineffective and misleading sham.

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