Trip Advisor for care? The growth of external assessment

We live in an open world these days, where user comments and customer feedback on every conceivable service, from hotels to hairdressers, from auctions to zoos, are available on the internet. Care is no exception. If we are in the business of delivering care then we are firmly in the public eye.

Since 2010 the Care Quality Commission has ceased providing star ratings for providers in England, removing a way in which people could get a straightforward impression of a service. A proposed replacement for the old star ratings – the excellence award – fell flat on its face after lobbying by the National Care Association.

Recently the Good Care Guide was launched jointly by charities United for All Ages and My Family Care.  On this website people can record their own assessments and give ratings for a range of care services, including elderly care.

With external assessment services, care providers naturally are concerned about the risk of unfair or biased reviews being published about them or for a minority of poor reviews to create an unduly poor impression of a service. We all know that sometimes a hotel which has a bad TripAdvisor rating turns out to be wonderful for us.

Ratings services claim to have a way of dealing with these issues. The independent database company Searchline says its researchers make checks on reviews submitted. The Better Care Guide allows care providers to respond to comments made about them, while the Good Care Guide gives the right for reviews to be disputed and investigated. Of its first 1000 reviews, 10% were disputed and just 14% of disputed reviews were reinstated.

How these ratings systems fare will be tested over time.  A new player is due to enter this market from within the social care establishment – the Social Care Institute for Excellence. SCIE has launched its Find Me Good Care site, providing general information about social care based on three sources of information: the CQC report, information from the provider, and feedback from service users. SCIE says it will moderate feedback to ensure individuals and organisations are treated fairly.

SCIE says its service will clearly be styled as the “official” care ratings service and claims to be seeking the stamp of government approval. We will see.  SCIE may become the service that providers have most confidence in. But where service users and relatives will actually go in practice to seek advice and to rate care services is anybody’s guess.