British patients could soon rate their doctors by posting reviews on an official health service website, Health Minister Ben Bradshaw said in comments published Tuesday.
By being able to read feedback from other patients, people would be better able to decide which doctor they wanted to consult, the junior minister told The Guardian newspaper.
AdvertisementThe scheme would take its cue from the way people leave comments and ratings about books and music on Internet retail sites, Bradshaw said.
Posters would be able to leave positive and negative feedback, though the site would be moderated.
However, doctors' representatives voiced concern that it would descend into a meaningless popularity contest rather than providing accurate information about medical skills.
Officials have been told to get the necessary software ready in 2009, The Guardian said.
Since April, the National Health Service's Choices website has allowed people to post comments on hospitals. Bradshaw wants to extend the scheme to family doctors, called general practitioners (GPs).
"On NHS Choices there is already some useful information about whether a practice offers extended hours and how it performs on the quality indicators," Bradshaw said.
"But the quality scores look like the results of an east European election under the Soviet regime. Nearly all get 96 percent, 97 percent or 98 percent.
"That doesn't really give people an idea of whether the practice is better or worse than others in the area.
"I want people to be able to read comments. It may be that people think the GP is fantastic and they can always get an appointment within 48 hours. Or they may have terrible experiences and think the receptionist is really rude."
He added: "I would never think of going on holiday without cross-referencing at least two guide books and using Trip Adviser (a travel review website). We need to do something similar for the modern generation in healthcare.
"I can already learn a lot from the comments of people, both positive and negative, about a type of treatment or a hospital. We need to extend the service to cover GPs."
However, Laurence Buckman, chairman of the British Medical Association's GPs committee, accused the government of not thinking the plan through properly.
"A website on which people can slander or praise irresponsibly is the wrong approach," he said.
"Patients should be able to choose a doctor, but I don't think this is the way to do it.
"For example, if I don't give antibiotics for a viral infection because I don't think it is appropriate, the word will get out that I am a tough git. But making them happy is not what I am there for. I am there to make them healthy."
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