The Department of Health’s flagship website NHS Choices has been given a central role in Lord Darzi’s plans for reforming the health service in England.

The online service, currently the subject of an £80m procurement exercise, will be used to deliver a much wider range of information to patients with the aim of driving improvements as patients use “informed choice” to select their GP or hospital service.

NHS Choices will provide patients with more a wider range of information about primary and community care services including patients own views on the success of their treatment and the quality of their experiences.

High Quality Care for All: The NHS Next Stage Review says the NHS Choices website currently provides a variety of “limited quality information” such as MRSA rates at an organisation level and Healthcare Commission ratings.

This will be expanded to provide “easy-to-understand, service-specific, comparable information” about every NHS organisation. Information will include data on cleanliness and infection rates, on experiences such as satisfaction, dignity and respect and on outcomes.

For primary care, data will include more comparative information about the range of services offered by GP practices, their opening times, the views of local patients and their performance against key quality indicators.

The report says NHS Choices will also be developed so that it “offers a simpler way of registering electronically with a GP practice”.

Lord Darzi’s review says too few people have access to information about their care or their own care record. It suggests that from next year NHS Choices will be the gateway to HealthSpace online. This it says will enable increasingly numbers of patients “to securely see and suggest corrections to a summary of their care records, to receive personalised information about staying healthy and to upload the results of health checks for their clinician to see.”

It says patients right to access their health records and to see the information held about them, including diagnostic tests, has been made clear by including it in the NHS Constitution.

The report says 74% of UK homes are expected to have broadband internet access by 2012 which it says has profound implications for health and healthcare.

It adds: “People are able to quickly and conveniently find information about treatment and diseases in a way that was previously impossible. They are able, and want, to engage with others online, sharing information and experiences. They want to do their own research, reflect on what their clinicians have told them and discuss issues from an informed position.”

The report says the challenge is to ensure that people can access reliable information and claims the evidence shows that clinicians have sometimes been slower in exploiting the potential of new information sources such as the internet, than others.

It adds: “If that trend continues there is a danger that people will have to navigate through myth and hearsay, rather than get easy access to evidence-based medical knowledge.”

Patients right to information on the quality of care delivered by the NHS as well as their right to choose both treatment and provider are to be enshrined in the NHS Constitution, a draft of which was also published yesterday.

The Darzi review document also outlines plans for a new NHS Evidence service which will provide all NHS staff with access to clinical and non-clinical evidence and best practice through a single web-based portal managed by the National Institute for Clinical Excellence (NICE).

The DH is also to develop a one-stop portal for staff called mystaffspace through which NHS staff will be able to access the NHS Evidence knowledge portal plus information on performance against the NHS quality framework, their own personal staff records and a log of their learning and development. NHS Mail will also be available via the mystaffspace portal.

Related documents

High quality care for all: NHS Next Stage Review

The NHS Constitution