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A user’s guide to health ratings

Jean Elgie

Jean Elgie


Health & Wellbeing

You can check how well a hospital performs, if a new GP surgery is right for you and whether a dentist is taking on NHS patients, courtesy of online searches. We show you how

The Care Quality Commission (CQC)

You might well have come across the CQC if you have ever checked out whether a care home will meet someone’s needs. But this independent regulator of health and social care in England does a lot more.

Its teams of experts carry out regular inspections of hospitals (both NHS and private), home- based care services, GPs, walk-in centres, out-of-hours services, ambulance services, dentists and mental health services. It also covers McCarthy & Stone Retirement Living PLUS developments where the care and management are run by Your Life in partnership with Somerset Care. 

If the CQC has rated a service as good or outstanding, that means you can expect to experience a high level of care in a safe environment and to be treated with compassion.Visit

Friends and Family Test (FFT)

This is the NHS version of TripAdvisor and centres mainly on the answer to a simple question: ‘Would you recommend this service to friends and family if they needed similar care or treatment?’ 

You may already have experience of this, with a text message following an appointment with a GP, dentist, hospital, emergency care, or even having used patient transport. All replies are treated anonymously.

However, just as with TripAdvisor, it’s wise to remember that if you see a lone negative comment, it may well be a one-off, specific to that person. 

NHS England says that around 9 out of 10 patients are happy to recommend the service that they used.

Find out how to check a health provider’s overall FFT rating at

Patient choice

The NHS in England deals with more than 1 million patients every 36 hours. And most of that care starts with your GP. 

If your GP considers that you need referral to a hospital consultant for, say, a hip replacement, in most cases you have a legal right to choose the hospital you wish to go to and even a named consultant. This is now often done under the NHS e-Referral Service, which has largely replaced the rather chaotic Choose and Book system.

Your GP can give you a shortlist of, usually, three hospitals for you to choose from. Together, you can compare information about hospitals, consultants, quality ratings, waiting times and even parking. It also includes private hospitals if they provide services to the NHS.

Once you decide on the best choice for you, you can use the e-Referral service online, using the reference on your booking letter and the password from your referrer.
Find and compare health services and procedures at


Although the My NHS site may look intimidating with its charts and data-heavy information, it’s a nifty way of checking how well, say, your knee replacement surgeon of choice has performed.

Access the site (, then click on the ‘Specialities’ tab and enter your surgeon’s name. 

The information on this page relates to England. For NHS services in Wales, visit and in Scotland,

Photo Credit: IStock.

You may be interested in finding out more about the McCarthy and Stone retirement properties that we have available.

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