The British Medical Association (BMA) has said it remained concerned that patients will not get an accurate picture of GP practice quality from a new facility on the NHS Choices website allowing patients to rate their practice.
A BMA press statement said: "The BMA believes rating a GP practice online is not the best way to deliver patient feedback. However, we have been working with the Department of Health to try to ensure the system is as fair as possible and that it will not be open to abuse."
Dr Laurence Buckman (pictured), Chairman of the BMA's GPs Committee, said: "GPs have been getting feedback, through inviting comments from patients, and via surveys or patient participation groups for years, and we always welcome any scheme which supports constructive criticism and feedback.
"We are pleased that many of our initial concerns, such as the potential for malicious postings or the ability to post a right of reply, have been allayed. However, we remain to be convinced how much real value this will have for patients."
Dr Buckman said that posts to the site would inevitably be "from a self-selected population motivated to post feedback", and that unless a significant number of comments are generated it would be "impossible" to build up a reliable and accurate picture of a practice's quality.
He added: "Our highest users, the elderly and the long-term sick, who are arguably in the best position to give useful feedback to other patients, are the least likely to post comments, as research shows they have the lowest rate of accessibility to the internet.
"We believe other forms of patient feedback, such as surveys or patient participation groups, are the best way for practices to get feedback and for patients to make a difference to the way their services are delivered.
"We would encourage every practice to set up such a group if they don't have one already. Given the financial constraints the NHS is under, we think this is the best way to ensure general practice is as responsive to patients' needs as it can be."
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