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NHS Choices for professionals

Manage user comments

A key feature of NHS Choices allows users to rate and comment on NHS health and social care services in England. 

We believe user feedback helps people make informed decisions and encourages health and care providers to assess their services and make changes where necessary.

The FAQs below answer the most commonly asked questions about dealing with user comments on NHS Choices. However, if you still need assistance after looking through the FAQs, please contact our Service Desk servicedesk@nhschoices.nhs.uk.

If you wish to make a complaint about our content or any operational issues, please email complain@nhschoices.nhs.uk. Additionally you can take a look at the NHS Choices complaint process (PDF, 151kb) and for more detailed information see the NHS Choices complaints policy (PDF, 1.04Mb).

When you register your profile account, we ask you to assign a designated person (administrator) to post responses on behalf of your organisation. If you want to find out who the administrator is for your organisation or wish to change the designated person, email the NHS Choices helpdesk on servicedesk@nhschoices.nhs.uk.

When a user comment is posted on your profile, you will receive an alert, and you will have the opportunity to reply. Simply log into https://choicesmoderation.nhs.uk, using the same details you've been provided for your service profile.

 

What can people comment on?

NHS Choices users can search for the profile of any NHS service provider via the Services near you facility. Once a profile is selected they can then either provide an overall star rating for the service or leave a review.

Users will initially be asked whether they would recommend a service to friends and family. Patients will then be asked to leave a review about their visit and give a title to their review. They are also asked when they visited the services before submitting their review.

While everyone can submit an anonymous comment, they must prove they have a live email account by clicking on a link emailed to them before the comment is considered valid. All comments are moderated before they are published and any comment considered to be libellous, generally offensive or discriminatory will not be allowed.

As a service provider, you can either post a reply to each comment or alert the moderator about any concerns you have. Many organisations have used the feedback facility as an opportunity to celebrate success or review their processes.

For more information, read the NHS Choices comments policy and the patient feedback terms of use.

How can our organisation respond to comments?

When you register your profile account, we ask you to assign a designated person (administrator) to post responses on behalf of your organisation. If you want to find out who the administrator is for your organisation or wish to change the designated person, email our Service desk team (servicedesk@nhschoices.nhs.uk) with the following information:

  • name
  • email address
  • organisation name
  • organisation address, including postcode

We will then send you log-in details and further guidance on how to respond to comments.

How long will comments remain on the website?

Comments and ratings remain on NHS Choices for five years. However, after two years, the comments are clearly highlighted as 'older postings' and the rating values no longer contribute to the overall rating for the practice.

I run a small practice how can I avoid personal comments?

All comments are pre-moderated to ensure that nothing malicious, libellous or defamatory will appear on the site. Users cannot name or identify individuals. Moderators are made aware where a comment refers to a small practice so they can take this into account.

How to deal with comments that feel unfair/inaccurate/libellous?

Patients' comments reflect a user's experience. Just because you disagree with the opinion or believe it is wrong, it doesn't mean it is defamatory if published.

However, all comments published on NHS Choices are reviewed by moderators, who will reject any comments in breach of our comments policy and general terms and conditions.

If you believe a comment has been published in error, you can notify our moderation team using the 'report as unsuitable' button underneath the comment. Explain why you feel the comment breaks NHS Choices policies. Our moderators will then reassess the comments. 

Please be aware that a comment will remain published unless it breaches our guidelines. We do not publish comments that identify individual staff members or make accusations of clinical negligence.

How to deal with comments that were meant for someone else?

If you believe a comment has been posted on your profile by mistake, select the 'report as unsuitable' button underneath the comment, then follow the instructions provided. Where possible, please include details of the location you believe the comment was intended to be posted, including the postcode, organisation name and the name of the correct service provider if appropriate.

How is the star rating for our organisation calculated?

Star ratings are accumulations of ratings made over a two year period for the question "Recommend to friends and family". The result is rounded up to the nearest half star. After a period of two years the ratings are removed from the organisation's overall rating score and collected fresh for the next two years. 

Can I post comments in the name of a patient?

Posting by a provider for a patient is not permitted. If a patient is not computer literate, a family member or friend may assist. Staff should not assist patients nor solicit comments.

NHS Choices employs a number of online checks to ensure posted comments come from patients not staff. Any comments found to have been posted by staff are immediately rejected. 

Social care: third party review providers

NHS Choices provides functionality to allow users to leave reviews against care home and care at home services. There is also the possibility to aggregate reviews supplied by trusted partners who provide a similar service.

Reviews can be exported to any partner who wishes to receive them. These can then be published on other websites, enabling an increase in the visibility of such reviews.

Other organisations collecting reviews:

 

NHS Choices best practice tips

Patient feedback allows members of the public to post comments about their experience of individual NHS services and helps them make informed decisions about their healthcare.

Patient comments also help providers assess their level of service and make changes where necessary. This section explains how best to respond to patient feedback.

  • Remember that patients' comments are opinions, not statements of fact. NHS Choices cannot check whether each opinion is factually correct. Just because you disagree with the opinion or believe it is wrong, it doesn't mean it is defamatory if published.
  • Respond to all comments, good or bad. It shows the commenter you listen, and that their comment has been read and acknowledged.
  • Say who has left the response. This adds a personal touch and increases the perception that the practice is an open, welcoming place.
  • Welcome all opinions and try not to be defensive or aggressive if the comment is negative. Don't take comments personally. Every organisation receives critical comments at some point – try to respond constructively.
  • Do not use the same stock response to each comment. If anything, this looks worse than not responding at all.
  • Take anonymous comments as seriously as named ones. Just because someone has chosen to comment anonymously, it doesn't mean the comment is malicious. A good way of approaching anonymous comments is to suggest the user visits the practice to talk in person about the issues they've raised.
  • Practices can respond to most comments without breaching patient confidentiality. As a bare minimum, a practice can say patient confidentiality prevents them from going into detail, but that the commenter is welcome to visit the practice to discuss the issues personally.
  • Remember, your reply will be the final word. People giving feedback are not allowed to post further comments about the same experience or respond to the practice's replies. If this does happen, report the comment and we will remove it.
  • The commenter may have said nothing to the practice at the time, yet still write a negative comment about their experience. Just because you don't recognise the experience, it doesn't mean it didn't happen.
  • Patient feedback is completely separate from the official NHS complaints process. If someone is following that process, they are still entitled to leave feedback.
  • Communications between NHS Choices and anyone providing feedback are confidential. Do not ask NHS Choices to tell you who wrote the comment. We can't. If we did, we'd breach data protection laws.
  • Remember, your response will be seen by everyone who reads your practice's comments, not just the original commenter. Your reply is a good opportunity to market your practice.

The role of NHS Choices moderators

Moderators have a responsibility to ensure the patients' voice is heard, provided comments comply with Choices' comments policy and terms of use. Our moderators:

  • screen every message for the suitability of language
  • remove abusive, offensive or threatening content
  • reject comments which accuse individuals of negligence, incompetence or criminal activity

Did NHS Choices consult with the medical profession?

Yes. We have been in discussions with the British Medical Association (BMA) since 2009. These discussions have helped us to draft the questions and design the moderation process.

How does NHS Choices deal with comments indicating a suicide risk

All comments on NHS Choices are reviewed by our moderators. Once alerted to comments that cause serious concerns about a vulnerable patient, we will try to contact the person via the email they have supplied. We will advise them to contact their GP in the first instance, with further advice tailored to their comment.

If a person's life is believed to be at risk, we will contact clinical staff involved in the patient's care if their GP or healthcare team are identifiable, or local police.

Won’t it just serve people with a grievance or those who want to moan?

The evidence from several years of patient feedback on hospitals and GP practices suggests not. There are more than 300,000 patient comments on NHS Choices and the majority contain positive feedback. More than half of GP patients expressing an opinion state that they would recommend their practice to a friend.

Page last reviewed: 10/02/2016

Next review due: 09/02/2018

How to respond to a comment

This video tutorial explains how to use the organisation response feature to respond to patient comments made on your NHS Choices profile. Many organisations have used the feedback facility as an opportunity to celebrate success or review their processes.

Media last reviewed: 21/04/2016

Next review due: 21/04/2019

How services can benefit from online patient feedback

Professionals from a range of healthcare environments talk about how online patient feedback has been of benefit to their services.

Media last reviewed: 23/05/2016

Next review due: 23/05/2019