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How do healthcare staff in Northern Ireland view Care Opinion?

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About: Health and Social Care Northern Ireland

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In August 2020, the Northern Ireland health minister Robin Swann launched Care Opinion as the online feedback platform for health and social care across the region. 

Use of Care Opinion by patients, service users, carers and staff across Northern Ireland has built up steadily since then, with 2,400 stories shared, over 1,500 staff listening, and over 70 changes made to services so far. This seems like a good time to begin to get a sense of how people in the region view Care Opinion, and any effects it might be having.

Although we already have a range of independent academic research about online feedback, we don't yet have research links in Northern Ireland. So, for the time being, we are carrying out our own evaluation.

Today we are sharing the results of an online survey of staff with a Care Opinion login. Following this, we will be planning a survey of feedback authors.

A big thank you to all the staff who very kindly took the time to complete our survey!

Research summary

Ten months after the launch of Care Opinion in Northern Ireland, we surveyed 1,414 health and social care staff registered as users of the online platform. 337 staff responded to the survey, with the large majority indicating strong support for our service, both in principle and in practice.

Care Opinion’s mission was seen as fairly or very important by 96% of respondents.

In addition, 92% of respondents felt that Care Opinion would definitely or probably be helpful for patients and relatives, 89% for themselves or their team, and 95% for their organisation.

Staff with more experience of using Care Opinion in practice were also more likely to be sure of its helpfulness to patients, their team and their organisation.

Positive aspects of Care Opinion identified by large numbers of staff included:

  • Supporting staff learning, quality improvement and service development
  • Lifting staff morale
  • Fostering an open, learning culture
  • Building public confidence in services
  • Providing a safe and effective alternative to social media
  • Offering benefits to service users, including ease of use, speed of response, simplicity, ability to remain anonymous, ability to avoid a formal complaint

A small number of staff had doubts about Care Opinion. For the most part, these were not objections in principle, but concerns about practicality – for example, low awareness of Care Opinion among patients and service users, whether an online platform could be accessible, especially for older people, and whether online feedback would be taken seriously by care providers.

The time needed to read or respond to feedback was a concern for a few staff, but not among staff who were experienced Care Opinion users. The independence of Care Opinion from organisation-owned compliment/complaint processes was seen as a strength by some respondents, and as a concern by others.

This evaluation indicates that, within 10 months of its launch, Care Opinion has gained a strong level of support among staff in Northern Ireland who have accounts on the platform. Staff support the purpose of Care Opinion in principle and see a range of positive benefits from its use in practice.

Further qualitative research would help to identify the full range of impacts of online feedback, and how these develop over time.

These findings are very encouraging as we continue to work with the Public Health Agency in Northern Ireland to extend the awareness, use and impact of online feedback across the system.

Full report

Download the report of our online survey below. 

Care Opinion survey of NI staff, June 2021 (Word document)

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