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It’s not about making a comment. It’s about making a difference

Change from Care Opinion

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Patient Opinion is all about connection, collaboration and change.

Patients want to experience high quality healthcare – and, almost always, staff want to provide it. We think, through online feedback, we can help patients and carers to help staff to provide the best care they can.

This evening, BBC Newsnight raised concerns about stories posted on Patient Opinion by staff at Nottinghamshire Healthcare NHS Trust, a large mental health care and community services trust. The worry is that staff might pretend to be patients, and perhaps give an overly positive view of the Trust.

Over the past two years staff at the Trust have posted many stories on Patient Opinion – and they are posting them on behalf of patients and carers. That’s because, quite often, the people the Trust cares for need help and support to get their voices heard.

Many service users have mental health problems or learning difficulties. Some are in environments with no direct Internet access, such as local prisons or Rampton, a high-security psychiatric hospital. Some are old or disabled or have no experience at all of computers.

For example, here is an extraordinary account from a patient in Rampton Hospital. In it, the service user says “I can honestly say that coming here was the best thing that has ever happened to me and I wish it had happened sooner so that I wouldn’t still be here now and then I might not have done the things that bring shame to me.”

And here’s a patient on an older adults mental health ward raising an issue about long waits to see the doctor on the ward. In the responses you see staff discussing the issue and taking practical steps to make things better.

Real-time improvements, from real-time feedback, posted by service users and carers, sometimes in locked wards and sometimes with help from staff. This is something to celebrate, not to disparage.

Lisa Metcalf, a specialist podiatrist at the Trust, recently blogged about the impact of feedback from her patients: “Our patients are happier, we have less complaints, and we’ve found that by listening to our patients, we do have the power to make our service better.”

Newsnight is right about one thing though: we need to show clearly when a story has been posted with help from staff. Transparency is essential to the work of Patient Opinion, as is earning and maintaining the trust of both patients and staff.

So as a result of Newsnight raising this issue with us, we’ve already updated our site to show clearly when a story has been added by staff, on behalf of a patient or carer.

The key point here is that Patient Opinion is nothing like Tripadvisor. This isn’t about “reviewing” a service or comparing “top-rated” services. It is about an effective, scalable collaboration between patients and staff, right across the NHS, to make care better. It isn’t about making a comment, it’s about making a difference. And everyone can join in – including staff.


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