UK Government

Department of Health (National): Amended Copy - Under Strict Embargo until 00:01 9 November 2010 - Internet is First Choice for Health Advice

News   •   Nov 09, 2010 11:05 GMT

More patients than ever before are going online to find health information and self-diagnose, saving the NHS millions of pounds a year, according to separate reports published today.

A report shows the NHS website received over a 100 million visits in the last year, while a separate study from Imperial College found a third of those logging onto www.nhs.uk avoided booking a GP appointment afterwards, potentially saving the NHS £44 million a year.

The NHS Choices 2010 Annual Report published today shows there has been a 10 per cent increase in the number of visits to the NHS website in 2010 compared to 2009, taking the number of times people logged on to the site to well over 100 million.

Separately, Imperial College research found 70 per cent of patients use the internet to search for health information, with a third deciding not to visit their GP afterwards as they were able to find the information they were looking for.Health Minister Simon Burns said:

"Every day we use the internet and technology to organise our lives, and increasingly when it comes to our health. For example, more and more people are taking the information they have found online with them when they consult their GP. It is important they can find accurate, trusted information from sources such as NHS Choices.

"It is vital that every penny spent on the NHS counts, and the Imperial College research shows that tools like NHS Choices can help deliver savings."

NHS Choices recently topped a Which? investigation into medical websites, saying the site 'excelled for its breadth of information' and that the site contained 'medically robust information'.

Bristol GP Knut Schroeder said:

"The internet is a great resource for health-related information as long as people can use sources they can trust and rely on. Indeed, many of my patients now use websites such as NHS Choices to look up health related information, such as symptoms or medical conditions. As a result, they are often better informed and are in a better position to use health services more appropriately."

The 2010 NHS Choices annual report published today also found:

* There were on average 200,000 visits a day to NHS Choices;

* 19 million people turned to NHS Choices to find information on swine flu during the height of the pandemic;

* Over 40,000 patients posted comments about hospitals and GP practices;

* NHS Choices partnered with over 170 external organisations, such as patientopinion.org.uk and mumsnet, to allow patients to access reliable health information across the board. This led to 25 million people viewing information on NHS Choices via partner websites.

The Government recently launched a consultation how information and technology can help people take more control of their health and make the best choices for themselves and their families.

Notes to Editors:

1. The NHS Choices and Imperial reports can be found at: www.nhs.uk/annualreport
2. NHS Choices (www.nhs.uk) is the official website of the NHS. In addition to providing thousands of pages of NHS accredited content on conditions, treatments and healthy living, it allows the public to compare and comment on the performance of hospitals, GPs and many other NHS services. The site is now the biggest health information site in Europe, regularly attracting 9 million users a month.