Health site 'saves NHS millions'

Computer use Some 19 million people logged on for swine flu information

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An NHS website which encourages people to self-diagnose saves the health service millions of pounds a year, a study suggests.

Last year there were more than 100 million visits the NHS Choices site, a 10% increase compared with 2009.

The site offers patients a quick reference guide to illnesses, symptoms, diagnosis and treatment.

A separate study from Imperial College London found 70% of patients used the internet to search for information.

'Trusted information'

A third of these then decided there was no need to visit their GP.

Reductions in avoidable and unnecessary consultations among young people could amount to savings of about £44m per year, the university's report said.

The NHS Choices annual report found some 19 million people logged on to the site for information on swine flu, while overall there were on average 200,000 visits a day.

The site has space for patients to write comments about hospitals and GP surgeries, and more than 40,000 have been posted so far.

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."

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