"Just how confidential is "handled confidentially"?"

About: Care Opinion

(as the patient),

Just how confidential is "handled confidentially", and "does not reveal your identity"?

If my story was to appear anonymously on the Patient Opinion website, and the Consultant was to read it, I can assure you, without a shadow of a doubt, that the relevant Consultant would know exactly to whom the story referred!

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Response from Sarah Ashurst, subscriber services manager, Care Opinion

picture of Sarah Ashurst

Dear Pineapple

That is a good question! When we say we do not reveal your identity and we handle stories confidentially, we mean we do not pass any of your personal details (name, email and postcode) on to anyone else. Sometimes hospitals ask us for an author’s email so they can contact them directly but we never do this unless the author gives us permission to do so.

However, you raise an important point about people being identifiable through their story. We try as far as possible to make sure people do not accidentally identify themselves on our website. To do this we do not let people use their full name as their username, mention their name or family members’ names in postings and we obscure dates/times of appointments.

This means the author will then be anonymous to the general public, but in some cases they may still be identifiable to the people in the service they are talking about. This could be because it is a really small service or because of the unique circumstances outlined in the story.

We try to minimise this risk but we can not eliminate it completely and it is for each author to make a decision about what they share on the website and at what time during their treatment they would like to share that feedback. If you are worried about being identified you can leave out anything that you think might identify you and talk in more general terms. This still leaves you plenty of scope to give feedback about what happened and how you felt.

Thank you for getting in touch and I hope my answer has been helpful.

Best wishes,


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Update posted by Pineapple (the patient)


Thank you very much for your reply.

However, I do not wish to take the matter any further, inasmuch as I am in a relatively good relationship with my Consultant, and my criticism would have been directed to a team of "specialists"(?) rather than to an individual, who might have taken my criticisms to be personal towards him/her rather than to the team.