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At the heart of general practice since 1960

NHS Choices costs £27m a year

By Steve Nowottny

The Government's flagship NHS Choices website, set up to provide healthcare information to patients and which controversially allows patients to rate their GP practice, cost taxpayers more than £27m last year.

Figures released by health minister Phil Hope this week in response to a parliamentary question from Conservative MP Grant Shapps reveal the cost of running the site more than doubled last year, from £13,677,578 in 2007-8 to £27,860,820 in 2008-9.

Last year's spend included £8.7 million on strategy and planning, £7.4m on design and build, £7.1m on content provision, £3.1m on hosting and infrastructure and £1.3m on testing and evaluation. However the figures did not include ‘internal staff costs'.

A previous parliamentary answer released in October revealed that the Department of Health spent £550,000 on advertising for NHS Choices last year, and a further £530,000 on advertising patient choice.

The extra spending comes as the NHS Choices site has dramatically increased its usage by patients. Official figures show that the site had almost 5.3 million unique visitors last May, and the launch of practice ratings has further boosted readership. Pulse reported last month that almost 350,000 patients are now viewing GP and hospital ratings every month, with 5,700 comments posted on GP practices.

The NHS Choices website allows patients to rate their GP practice and hospitals The NHS Choices website allows patients to rate their GP practice and hospitals

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