Health Secretary Patricia Hewitt today (Wednesday 11 April 2007) announced the launch of a new flagship website, called "NHS Choices".
At a visit to a library pilot in Wood Green, London, Patricia Hewitt said: "We are determined to put patients at the heart of the NHS, and making sure patients can access and share information about health services is a crucial part of that. Patients will soon be able to choose, with the click of a button, where they want to have their treatment. Our new choice website will allow the public and clinicians to access a range of information through one super site that will act as a gateway to navigate NHS services.
"Patient choice is about people being in control. Patients needing a hospital appointment should have the right to pick and choose their time, date and place. To make this happen, we need to invest in facilities to help patients take control. Using public libraries and the internet is an ideal way to support patients, families and carers with information."
From today, patients or any member of the public in 10 areas across the country (Newham, Bromley, Hackney, Southwark, Haringey, Waltham Forest, Greenwich, Derbyshire, Gloucestershire and Suffolk) will be able to go to their local library and have trained librarians support them as they choose and book hospital appointments online offering new convenience and flexibility.
NHS Choices will go live this summer and will empower patients to access a variety of information:
State-of-the art interactive and multimedia technology will extend choice to the most disadvantaged groups in society, and the website will overcome the digital divide by making information available in a range of formats. Audio programmes will be available for streaming to local radio stations, televisual content will be supplied for burning onto DVDs, and health professionals will be able to provide lifestyle information about healthier living with pamphlets that can be printed off at public libraries or in the GP surgery.
NHS Choices has received strong backing from clinicians and patient groups. Dr Tom Coffey, a GP in South London, and chair of the new health network, said: "I welcome this new website because it will mean that patients and I will be using the same authoritative clinical information. It will also give me an instant library of patient information, which I can use during consultations and provide to patients."