The official website of the National Health Service, NHS Choices, has reduced pressure on GPs by up to a third and saves taxpayers £44 million each year, according to a new report.
Researchers from Imperial College in London calculated the saving after they discovered that a third of users who visited NHS Choices ended up not booking an appointment with their GP because they found the information they needed on the website.
Launched in 2007 by the previous Labour government, NHS Choices (www.nhs.uk) has become the biggest health information site in Europe, attracting more than 100 million visits a year. The site's annual report reveals a 10 per cent increase in visitors this year compared to 2009.
NHS Choices provides thousands of pages of advice on conditions, treatments and healthy living. Members of the public can also use the site to rate the performance of hospitals, GPs and other NHS services. Over 40,000 patients have so far posted comments about their local health services.
NHS Choices recently topped an investigation by consumer magazine Which? into medical websites. The survey said the site "excelled for its breadth of information" and contained "medically robust information".
According to the new report by Imperial College, 70 per cent of patients now use the Internet to search for health information.