NHS Choices is saving the NHS £94 million a year in reduced GP consultations, new academic research has claimed.
A survey carried out on the site and in six practices by GP researchers at Imperial College London found that 59% of the websites 24 million annual visitors used health information on the site to make decisions about whether or not to visit their GP.
Of these 29.5% of patients – mostly the young and the healthy – reported that using NHS Choices reduced their frequency of GP consultations.
The researchers estimates the overall number of GP visits avoided by NHS Choices users to be 4,177,200, and the net cost savings as £94million, assuming an average cost per primary care visit of £27.50 and an estimated cost of running the site of £25million.
One of the study authors Professor Azeem Majeed, professor of primary care at Imperial College London and a GP in Clapham, concluded: ‘NHS Choices has proved to be a popular and effective decision support tool permitting more efficient self-management and self-triage by the public. Recuing potentially avoidable consultations can result in considerable capacity savings in primary care.'
Professor Paul Nelson a study author added: 'The paper demonstrates evidence of the promise of NHS Choices and indeed web and new media approaches to supporting behaviour change ie. a high quality information website empowering individuals for health aligning demand with true need.'
The study was published online in the Journal of the Royal Medical Society Short Reports.