Frequently asked questions
Just click on a question to be taken to the answer
How did Patient Opinion start and who is behind it?
Patient Opinion was founded by Paul Hodgkin a GP in Sheffield who wanted to make the wisdom of patients available to the NHS. The old ways of doing this - inviting a patient to sit on a working party or carrying out a survey - did not work very well so he devised Patient Opinion as a way for thousands of patients to share their experience, and help busy health service staff to improve. All at much lower cost.
The initial phase of Patient Opinion was funded by the Department of Health and South Yorkshire Strategic Health Authority. Since 2006, Patient Opinion has been funded through subscriptions and sales to trusts, commissioners and others.
We believe that patient stories are really valuable and should be made available as widely as possible. So we never charge people for access to the stories and we encourage others to re-publish stories. This means that the published version of your story (but never any of the other information you give Patient Opinion) may appear on other websites including NHS Choices, patient organisations and Local Information Networks (LINks)/HealthWatch.
The website development done in-house, by a team led by Dr James Munro, our Chief Executive.
Patient Opinion is run by a great and enthusiastic team and has its own independent board. It is entirely separate from the NHS and is structured as a Social Enterprise Company limited by shares. All surplus goes back to improve our services.
How does Patient Opinion make its money?
We generate income from health service organisations that choose to subscribe to Patient Opinion. Like lots of websites the basic service is free. But hospitals and lots of other organisations are happy to pay a modest annual subscription to make Patient Opinion even more useful. Subscribing to Patient Opinion means that health services get access to all our great tools and support, to help busy staff make the most of patient feedback. Subscribers can also compare how they are doing and generate reports.
Since Patient Opinion is run on a not-for-profit basis any surplus that we generate is redirected back to the NHS and not to shareholders or the Government.
Patient Opinion is:
- independent of both the NHS and the Government
- not for-profit. If we were for profit, or part of the government, they might be uncomfortable about us publishing critical stories.
- funded by lots of subscriptions. This means that there are no big funders who can 'pull the plug' if things get uncomfortable.
- free of advertising - we're here to enable your voice to be heard, rather than to make money or sell you stuff
What happens to my story?
Before your story can be published on the site it will be read by someone from Patient Opinion. We do our best to make sure that it is not obscene, defamatory or offensive (if it is, we reserve the right not to publish it or to edit it).
If your feedback is very critical we may email you to check that it is sent in good faith, though if we do not get a reply, we may not be able publish very critical stories.
We want your story to be heard by as many people as possible. So we make it really easy for other organisations to display our stories on their websites. That way your voice can be as effective as possible.
Finally, when we do publish your story, we will email you to let you know.
So you can see that all this may take some time. So, if you are waiting for your story to be published, do bear with us.
Why do you need my email address and postcode?
We need your email address so that we can get in touch about your story - particularly if it is serious. Having your email address also helps us to be sure that we know your story was shared in good faith.
Also, we will email you if your story gets a response from someone in the health service. And you can log in again, and respond or share other future experiences with us.
Knowing your postcode helps us select the health services you are likely to be interested in, when you share your story with us. A postcode also makes your comments count for much more, because it helps us direct your story to just the right people locally. This means that what you say is much more likely to have an impact.
You are right to be careful about giving out your email address and postcode. And we will treat both with respect. Patient Opinion will never give or sell or trade your personal information to any one, under any circumstance.
How is the information that I give used to improve services?
Health services use Patient Opinion in three main ways:
- To plan how to develop and improve services.
- To understand the choices that patients are making in their health care.
- To give doctors, nurses and managers a feel for what patients are saying about the service they manage.
- The Care Quality Commission receives all published stories and uses them to improve services.
We are convinced that patients' experiences - good or bad - are essential to improving the NHS. We know this because health services tell us how they have improved services as a direct result of feedback on the site.
Just look at the latest changes being made by health services on the site.
Do you publish everything?
So far we have published over 95% of all the stories that have been submitted. Around 15% of all opinions require some editing (usually to make sure they are not defamatory) and the rest are published as they are submitted.
The 5% that are not published are made up of:
- Opinions posted by people about hospitals overseas.
- Very critical postings where we cannot verify that the email address is correct.
- Some postings where the incident forms part of a legal proceedings.
- Postings that are confused, extremely long or about events that occurred more than 3 years ago.
Patient Opinion is a social enterprise. What does this mean?
A social enterprise is a business that exists to serve the public good rather than to generate profits for the owners. At Patient Opinion we are committed to running an efficient and sustainable business. We also run on a not-for-profit basis and when we do generate a surplus it is always directed into our work with the NHS.
How do you know that the opinions posted are truthful and from real people?
We have a number of ways of checking that postings to Patient Opinion are reliable. We also reserve the right to exclude people who abuse the system or whose postings are offensive.
Why doesn't Patient Opinion have much about general practices, dentists and so on?
These services are so much smaller it is much harder to protect the anonymity of patients who are making the comments. We want to make sure that feedback is really useful for small services like this, so we have been carefully working out the best way to work with them.
We have just started working with a few practices, to trial this work. We will give more updates on this as the work progresses.