Manage user comments

A key feature of the NHS website 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 the NHS website. However, if you still need assistance after looking through the FAQs, please contact our Service Desk.

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

When you register your profile account, we ask you to assign a designated person (comment administrator) to post responses on behalf of your organisation. If you want to find out who the comment administrator is for your organisation or wish to change the designated person, email the NHS website Service Desk.

When a user comment is posted on your profile, you will receive an alert, and you will have the opportunity to reply. Simply log in to our organisation response tool using the same details you've been provided for your service profile.

What can people comment on?

NHS website 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. They 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 provided a valid email address by clicking on a link emailed to them before the comment is considered for publication. All comments are checked before they are published, and any comment deemed to breach our comment policy will not be published.

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.

More information can be found in the NHS website 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 (comment administrator) to post responses on behalf of your organisation. If you want to find out who the comment administrator is for your organisation or wish to change the designated person, email our Service Desk team with the following information:

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

We will then send you login details and further guidance on how to respond to comments.

How long will comments remain on the website?

Published comments and ratings remain on the NHS website for 2 years from the date they are published. After 2 years they are deleted, along with any associated ratings and information.

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 may not name or identify individuals unless the identity is essential to the review. Moderators are made aware where a comment refers to a small practice so they can take this into account.

How should I deal with comments that feel unfair/inaccurate/libellous?

Patients' comments reflect their experience. You may disagree with them, but they are entitled to express their opinions so long as they are honest and genuinely held.

All comments published on the NHS website 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" link underneath the comment. Explain why you feel the comment breaks the NHS website policies. Our moderators will then review the comment in light of this report.

Please be aware that a comment will be republished if it does not breach our guidelines. We do not publish comments that unnecessarily identify individual staff members or make accusations of clinical negligence.

How should I 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" link 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 2-year period for the question "Recommend to friends and family". The result is rounded up to the nearest half star.

After a comment has been on the website for 2 years, the comment and rating are removed from the organisation's overall rating score.

Can I post comments on behalf 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 working for a provider should not assist patients nor solicit comments from individuals of their choosing.

The NHS website employs a number of online checks to ensure posted comments come from patients and not staff. Any comments found to have been posted by staff are immediately removed from the site.

Social care: third-party review providers

The NHS website provides functionality to allow users to leave reviews against care home and care at home services. The site also published reviews supplied by trusted partners who provide a similar online feedback 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:

The NHS website 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 can be used to 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. The NHS website team is not in a position to check whether each opinion is factually correct. You may disagree with the patient, but they are entitled to express their opinions as long as they are honest and genuinely held.
  • 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. Do not 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 does not 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 but still write a negative comment about their experience. Just because you do not recognise the experience, it does not mean it did not 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 the NHS website team and anyone providing feedback are confidential. Do not ask the NHS website team to tell you who wrote the comment. We cannot. 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, and a constructive response to a critical piece of feedback leaves a good impression with our website's readers.

What is the role of the NHS website moderators?

Moderators have a responsibility to ensure the patients' voice is heard, provided comments comply with the NHS website comments policy and terms of use.

Our moderators:

  • screen every message for adherence to our comments policy
  • investigate reports of unsuitable comments
  • amend or move comments that may have been submitted to an incorrect profile

Did NHS Digital 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.

NHS Digital also has a Clinical Information Advisory Group that reviews and signs off amendments to our processes and ways of working.

How does NHS Digital deal with comments indicating a suicide risk?

All comments on the NHS website 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 patient feedback on healthcare providers suggests not. Since the inception of the service in 2008, more than 2 million ratings and reviews have been submitted on the NHS website, and the majority we receive contain positive feedback.

Page last reviewed: 08/03/2017
Next review due: 08/03/2020