The government has launched
NHS Direct online,
the first comprehensive gateway to health information
on the Internet in the UK.
The new Internet service is in addition to the existing
NHS Direct phone service, which itself is being expanded
to 65 per cent of the country.
“NHS Direct online will provide access to clear, reliable, information to
people in their own home,” said Secretary of State for Health Alan Milburn.
“It will provide information about the NHS, and how to use its services,
facts and advice on health stories in the national press, and pages on
200 specific diseases and their treatment. Ours is the only health care
system in the world to have this sort of integrated access to expert
phone advice and information in published form through the telephone and
Prime Minister Tony Blair lent his support to the launch
during his tour of the North. He said more and more people
were now becoming familiar with using the Internet, not
just the younger generation.
The government plans to extend the new service to full
interactivity at a later date. Alan Milburn said that
patients will be able to join online discussion groups
about health problems, and eventually have online video
The new service will be available initially to people at home
via their Internet service providers, but by next year
there are expected to be hundreds of access points around the
country, in pharmacies and supermarkets.
The British Medical Association welcomed the launch as
being a big step forward in the provision of health information
in the UK.