NHS Choices website spending attacked

Millions of pounds of labour government investment in an NHS Choices website was criticised last week for threatening to stifle independent services that appear to do a better job at less cost.

Patients are to be allowed to post comments about their GP surgeries on the NHS Choices website later this year as the labour government adds online reviews of council and childcare services to the existing ability to review and rate hospitals on NHS Choices.

NHS Choices website- health direct
Gordon ditherer Brown, the prime minister, said the government had “clearly got the balance wrong” when online businesses such as Ebay, Amazon and Tripadviser offered higher transparency through consumer review than did taxpayer funded public services.

However, Colin Talbot, professor of public policy and management at Manchester Business School, said the government appeared “to have got the balance wrong” because it was investing large sums of taxpayers’ money in centralised projects that the independent sector appeared to do at least as well.

Since 2005, for example, patients have been able to comment on hospitals, mental health and primary care trusts, hospices and independent sector hospitals on Patient Opinion (www.patientopinion.org.uk), a social enterprise founded by family doctors.

Feedback can be left on all organisations, but 60 in the NHS subscribe to help fund the not-for-profit group’s £400,000-a-year turnover.

Professor Talbot said that at a time when public spending was under pressure, it seemed wrong to spend taxpayers’ money setting up a new centralised organisation rather than partnering a business that offered independence from the government.

There were other websites that also rated doctors and hospitals.

“Patient Organisation is a not-for-profit social enterprise – something the government says it wants to encourage – and is more likely to be trusted because it is independent of the Department of Health,” he said.

“Organisations that subscribe are far more likely to change what they do because they value the feedback they have decided to pay for, than they are to respond effectively to a bunch of anonymous comments passed on from a Department of Health website.

“It would be perfectly possible, and almost certainly much cheaper, for the government to support an organisation like this, while preserving its independence, rather than risk the elephant of the department sitting on it and squashing it.”

Dr James Munro, research director at Patient Opinion, said it hoped to sign a contract with the Department of Health this year to work with mental health trusts.

“We are hoping to work with NHS Choices more closely,” he said.

http://www.ft.com/cms/NHS Choices

Health Direct points out that the NHS choices was reviewed in our post on August 13, 2007
NHS Choices- massive inaccuracies mar GP patient website

Dr Trefor Roscoe, a GP in Sheffield, said the public were in danger of being “grossly misled” by the information on GP surgeries on the NHS Choices website. “According to the site we still open on Saturday morning which we last did about six years ago.”

He added: “ We all share the desire for patients and the public to be as well informed as possible but this is gimmicky and over simplistic and may cause unnecessary worries.”

Heath Direct notes that the Blog Doctors goes further. NHS Choices is described as thus: I have just spent ten minutes looking around NHS Choices and, as you would expect, I hate it. It is utterly dishonest. The last ten years has been about removing patient choice, not increasing it.

The lifestyle advice the site gives is trite and patronising, and at times downright offensive.

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