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To investigate out how the NHS should best interpret and act on patient experiences as online patient feedback to improve the quality of NHS services.

Why this is important

People use the internet to access customer reviews and ratings of holidays and shopping purchases. Sharing personal experiences on Facebook or Twitter is becoming a familiar part of everyday life. Increasingly, people are going online to give feedback on their experience of the NHS, or to read the feedback that other people have provided. There are websites which invite feedback on doctors or hospitals, and some people choose to tell their NHS stories in personal blogs or discussion forums like Mumsnet.


Our team of researchers has expertise in studying the internet and healthcare, in studying patient experiences, and in studying NHS organisations. We have worked closely with the NHS to improve its services in the past, and the lead researcher has an extensive track record working with NHS digital services. In designing this project we have consulted widely with the NHS and worked collaboratively with patients and carers, and we will continue to do so throughout the proposed work.


We will help the NHS understand when and how to use online feedback, and we will provide the tools to use it to improve services.

We will talk to experts in the field and examine previous research to find out about previous initiatives and current practice in this area, and to identify what lessons the NHS can learn. We will find out whether online feedback seems to be a good measure of the quality of healthcare. We will also try to predict future developments and challenges, so that the NHS is prepared for these.

We will study why people choose to comment on health services, and find out who are the people who read and write online feedback. This will help us to understand more about who this feedback comes from, how people expect their feedback to be used and what influence it has on other patients. This will help the NHS to interpret the feedback it receives.

In addition, we will also study NHS staff and NHS hospitals and GP practices to find out how the NHS and its staff view online feedback, and what they do with it. This will help us to understand what the challenges might be in encouraging appropriate use of this feedback in the NHS.

How this will benefit patients

The findings of our work will have the potential to revolutionise the way that the NHS responds to patients, their carers and the public. We will help the NHS understand when and how to use online feedback, and we will provide the tools to use it to improve services. Ultimately this could lead to improved patient experience in the NHS, and a higher quality health service with better health outcomes.


Full project title:

HS&DR - 14/04/48: Improving NHS Quality Using Internet Ratings and Experiences (INQUIRE)

Length of project:

Nov 15 – May 18




  • Patient representative: Miss Anya de Iongh 
  • University of Oxford: Professor Helen Margetts, Mr Luis Carrasqueiro, Professor Steve Woolgar
  • University of Edinburgh: Dr Fadhila Mazanderani

> Read the technical summary