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Last Updated: Monday, 18 June 2007, 23:06 GMT 00:06 UK
NHS website aims to boost choice
Surgeons
Patients are being given more choice over where they are treated
A new website is being launched in an attempt to strengthen patient choice.

The 3.6m NHS Choices website will include information on issues as varied as waiting times, hospital ratings and general cleanliness.

It is aimed at helping patients choose where they want to be treated when they need non-emergency surgery.

Ministers also hope it will lead to detailed data on clinical outcomes being published - to date only heart surgeons reveal performance statistics.

Patients have been given a choice of where they can go to be treated for non-emergency treatment since last year.

We know patients and the public are thirsty about getting information on health
Health Secretary
Patricia Hewitt

At the moment, patients are given a choice of at least four local hospitals and the top-performing foundation trusts.

Later this summer people needing hip and knee operations will be able to choose from any hospital.

And that will be extended to all specialities by April next year.

The multi-media website has sections giving advice on healthy lifestyles and also allows users to carry out an online health check.

It has detailed information on 40 of the most common diseases and also uses data compiled by the Healthcare Commission on hospital performance, including ratings and MRSA rates.

'Rubbish'

Health Secretary Patricia Hewitt said: "We know patients and the public are thirsty about getting information on health.

"One of the problems with the internet is that some of the information about health is top quality and some of it is rubbish.

"What NHS Choices will do is give the public access to the best information about health."

Ms Hewitt is also hoping the website will push doctors into releasing information about the results of treatment.

The website includes death rate data from individual heart units, which was already available via a Healthcare Commission website.

Other specialities have been reluctant to follow suit because of concerns over case mixes - the most experienced surgeons and doctors tend to take on the most difficult cases and therefore crude data could suggest they have the worst outcomes.

The health secretary said: "We now have to do this with other procedures... with the internet age resisting progress is fruitless."


SEE ALSO
Patient surgery choice extended
31 May 06 |  Health
Doctors assess patients' choice
01 Jan 06 |  Health
Is real NHS choice possible?
14 Nov 04 |  Health

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