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Online hospital comparison site launched

Published on 13/08/09 at 09:52am

Patients in the UK have been given the chance to rate hospitals by a variety of criteria using a new online service launched by the government.

The move is an extension of the sort of 'patient power' initiatives, such as the national GP Patient Survey, which have become popular under New Labour.

On the NHS Choices website there is a scorecard - a sort of for hospitals - carrying patients' feedback on various institutions.

New patients can add their own thoughts on issues such as clealiness, whether they were treated with dignity by staff, what the food was like and if they would recommend the hospital.

The site brings information from several sources into one place, including an overall "quality of service" rating for the NHS trust each hospital belongs to.

These ratings, provided by NHS regulator for England the Care Quality Commission, are either excellent, good, fair or weak. The site also includes information on mortality and infection rates.

Every hospital in England is being asked to encourage patients to leave feedback on the NHS website.

Such an approach has obvious drawbacks for healthcare providers, and hospitals will hope for a better report than that from a patient who identifies himself on the new site as "Ken".

After a visit to St Ann's Hospital in Tottenham, he wrote: "This is the worst hospital in London and should be closed."

However, health secretary Andy Burnham indicates that such negative comments are useful.

He said the new site offered hospitals an "unparalleled opportunity" to be made aware of problems and to improve services.

The initiative would help "drive up standards across the board" and enable hospitals to become "more patient focused".

Although patients can choose when and where they receive hospital treatment "we don't equip patients with anything like enough information to make informed decisions", Burnham admitted.

The new site has won approval from patient groups.

"The more information that patients have about local availability of their healthcare and the standards that they are looking for, the better it is," said Michael Summers, vice chairman of the Patients Association.

"We would fully support the launch of this important web tool and would hope that patients will benefit substantially from it."

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