The BMJ Group says the Department of Health’s withdrawl of funding from its award-winning website BestTreatments means it will now probably have to charge patients for access for the service.
The website has been available through NHS Direct online since 2004 and provides information on more than 1500 treatments. The BMJ say it was developed to help communication and decision making between patients and professional by giving research-based information on which treatments work and which do not.
Cherrill Hicks, editor of the site, claimed BestTreatments was the only independent, accessibly and evidence-based service available to patients.
She added: “By removing it, the Department of Health appears to be backtracking on its commitment to put patients at the centre of health care.”
The BMJ says patients view nearly a million pages of BestTreatments information each month and that the site was independently judged the most readable and accessible of 15 UK health sites.
Dr David Tovey, editorial director for the BestTreatments, said the BMJ Group would try to keep the site going but may have to charge patients and doctors for the service in the longer term. “By removing it, the Department of Health appears to be backtracking on its commitment to put patients at the centre of health care.”
He added: “We are surprised and disappointed by this decision especially when NHS policy documents consistently promote the view that access to high quality health information is essential if people are to be empowered to make genuinely informed choices.”
Juliet Dunmur, deputy chair of the British Medical Association’s Patient Liaison Group, was also critical of the DH decision to withdraw funding. She said: “Like thousands of other patients, I’ve found BestTreatments to be both user-friendly and a valuable source of up-to-date information. It’s a real shame that the government has decided to withdraw its support.”
In October last year the BMJ Group also lost its funding from Connecting for Health for Clinical Evidence after CFH demanded that the BMJ hand over intellectual property of Clinical Evidence as part of a new contract deal.
The Department of Health was unable to provide a comment on the withdrawal of funding from BestTreatments despite repeated requests from EHI Primary Care.
Previously on EHI