NHS watchdog to 'monitor social media care complaints'
Comments on social media will be used by England's health regulator to learn of possible NHS failings as part of an inspection overhaul, it is reported.
Technology offers "great potential... to capture people's views", Care Quality Commission (CQC) chairman Peter Wyman told the Daily Telegraph.
He said the body would use "early intelligence" to identify problems before "something awful" happened.
The CQC's budget is being cut and it expects to carry out fewer inspections.
Mr Wyman told the newspaper the new strategy would not "rip up" the current approach to inspection, but "refine" its methods.
"I think inspections are good and important and they are not going to go away, but on the other hand they are very expensive," he said.
The CQC, which regulates hospitals, doctors and care homes, should make better use of official data, such as mortality statistics, while being more responsive to anecdotal concerns, Mr Wyman said.
He said there were an "awful lot of ways to capture what people are saying" - including Facebook and formal complaints.
"We live in a world of big data, we need to be able to capture it and analyse it intelligently," he said.
"If you have got a maternity unit which was good when we last inspected and suddenly you get staff and the public saying they aren't happy then that is the time to be asking questions, rather than waiting for something awful to happen to mothers and babies."
A spokeswoman for the CQC said the plans were part of an ongoing consultation.
The resulting strategy is due out in May, and the spokeswoman said there was no timescale yet for changes to be implemented.
In the consultation document, the CQC says it expects its budget to be cut from £249m in the current financial year to £217 million in 2019-20.
It says the frequency of inspections and size of inspection teams will probably be reduced - but this will "help us to target our resources where risk is greatest and improvement is needed".