One of our moderation principles is to make giving feedback safe for everyone.
To do this, we take every step that we can to maintain the anonymity of patients, service users and their relatives, friends or carers that may be telling a story about their care experience.
So how do we do this?
Removing names and references to a person’s gender
We recognise that your story is personal to you and it is natural to write about the people in your life that were involved in your experience. You are encouraged to do so as they are important to you and often an important part of your story.
We do, however, want you to know that the way you refer to your loved ones and relatives can often be used to identify who you are and who they are by staff reading your story. As maintaining individuals’’ anonymity is important, we will edit your story to try to prevent this from happening.
So, nouns and pronouns that reference a person’s gender (e.g. mum, dad, son, daughter, brother, sister, husband, wife, etc.) will be replaced with nouns such as child, toddler, baby, spouse, partner, sibling. We also replace such words with the pronoun ‘they’.
We recognise this does not flow as smoothly as other nouns but do reassure you that it is the only grammatically correct word we can use to refer to a person of unspecified sex.
We try to leave references to a person's gender in positive stories where possible.
Often, storytellers choose usernames that contain information that could be used to identify them, sometimes without realising it. Our Moderation Team will assess each username, looking out for identifiers including, but not limited to:
- Full name
- First name
- First name or surname and year of birth (Sally1973)
- Sex (e.g. adventure man, happy mumma, granddaughter, uncle, chatterbox girl)
- Parenting status (e.g. tired mum, fun dad)
- Age (e.g. Going on 40, adult child, young adult).
When a storyteller’s username contains information that our Moderation Team feel could be used to identify them, we use our system’s random username generator to create a new username for you.
Additionally, some storytellers use emotions in their usernames (e.g. furious patient, grateful123) because that username relates to their story. If, however, they tell another story in the future that doesn’t match their username, it can be a little confusing - because furious patient starts expressing appreciation for the compassionate care the nurses gave them in their recent visit, it may sound a little strange!
If we see something that can be used to identify a storyteller, or an emotion that doesn’t quite match a previous story, we will generate a new username for them just to keep things a bit simpler.
Telling storytellers about their new username
Care Opinion’s Moderation Team would love to be able to tell every author when their username is changed. However, as every single story and response received is individually moderated, time and resources simply don’t allow it and getting stories to health and care services would take so much longer.
If our Moderation Team have another reason to reach out to you, they will mention the change. Otherwise, we explain why usernames may be changed when notifying storytellers that their story has been published.
We thank everyone for their understanding of our endeavours to keep our storytellers and service users safe in the public arena!
Staff names in positive stories
We understand that when staff made your care experience a positive experience, you want them to be recognised. So do we!
However, we must be mindful that this is a public site and we do not have staff members’ consent to publish their full name on our website. So if your story is positive, we can leave their first name in but cannot publish their surname. If you only have the surname of a staff member, such as Dr. Smith, we may need to refer to them as Dr. S.
Rest assured that care services know their own staff, and for the vast majority of the time, they will be able to recognise the great work of their staff even when their surname is not included in the story.
Staff names in negative stories
The important part of sharing negative stories is the contribution it can make to improving care services. Your story can play a big role in raising awareness of issues in services, such as lack of staff training in a particular area. So keep them coming!
Just keep in mind, that as a public site and we need to treat everyone fairly. We are in the business of constructive feedback and service improvement rather than naming and shaming anyone. We also don’t want to get in trouble for defaming a person and we don’t want you to either.
For this reason, we do not publish any part of a staff member’s name. Instead they are referred to by their role, such as doctor, nurse, managers etc. In smaller regions where there are only a few staff members, they may be referred to as clinicians or senior staff instead.
Most services will ask you to reach out to them privately to discuss the finer details of your story to allow them to investigate what happened. We strongly encourage you to do so because that’s your opportunity to share the person’s name to play your part in service improvement.