New patient experience website ‘could save money for the health service’

The operators of a new website in which patients can post stories about their experiences of the Irish health service have said they hope Health Minister Leo Varadkar will look at incorporating the model into the health system.

The site,, is based on a model already in use in Britain and elsewhere, and in its first five weeks has received 27 detailed stories. Described as operating in a way similar to holiday review website TripAdvisor, the stories are posted anonymously while the health facilities are named, although posts can be moderated to avoid the identification of any medical personnel.

The Irish Society for Quality and Safety in Healthcare is operating the site and one of the people involved, Hilary Dunne, said the majority of stories posted so far highlighted areas of good practice.

She said one story has already effected a change in policy in one hospital, in which a baby’s cleft palate initially went undetected and was not uncovered in subsequent visits. The baby’s grandmother finally detected it and the hospital is now understood to be carrying out oral checks on newborns as a result.

In its list of positive feedback from users, the service is praised for: competent staff, nursing care, professional staff, caring staff and compassion. Areas highlighted as needing improvement include: Appointment times; communication between professionals; consistent procedures; and equipment problems.

Ms Dunne said contributors could be assured that their input could be made anonymously. “We have had some queries from the public around it being linked back and there is a genuine fear of rocking the boat,” she said.

Meetings are planned with three facilities that have responded to requests from Patient Opinion for talks, while the group has also contacted Mr Varadkar requesting a meeting.

“This is a good news story and if he embraces it, it could save money for the health service,” she said, adding that the HSE had a large number of staff dealing with a relatively small number of official complaints, whereas hospitals could instead respond directly to issues raised on the site.

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