Staff often help patients to post reviews of their experiences of hospital care on the Patient Opinion site. Patient Opinion does support trusts in allowing staff to assist patients in submitting their feedback when these people may suffer from mental health problems, learning difficulties, or other impairments to their abilities. Such patients may include the elderly, people without IT skills or those without internet access to post their own reviews.
A BBC Newsnight investigation has found potential for this system to be open to abuse. Newsnight found that 49% of patient reviews (105 of 216 reviews) concerning Nottinghamshire Healthcare Trust on Patient Opinion and subsequently on NHS Choices had been created using staff accounts last year. Around 47% of those reviews from staff accounts failed to declare any potential conflict of interest.
Patient Opinion, NHS Choices and NHS England have since accepted that transparency is essential; it must be clear when stories have been added by staff on behalf of patients or carers. The Patient Opinion and NHS Choices sites have been updated to reflect such concerns.
Deri Smith, M. (2014). NHS online patient feedback reviews open to abuse. London: BBC Health News / Newsnight, March 18th 2014.