The Department of Health has reported that NHS Choices received more than 100m visits last year. It has also published research indicating that patients who visited the website were less likely to consult a GP.

The NHS Choices annual report says there has been a 10% increase in the number of visits to NHS Choices in 2010 to more than 100m; with an average of 200,000 visits a day.

The report says 19m people used NHS Choices to get information about swine flu and more than 40,000 patients have now posted comments about hospitals and GP practices.

A separate study from Department of Primary Care at Imperial College, London, commissioned by NHS Choices, and also published this week, found patients who used the site was less likely to consult a GP.

Researchers examined the potential benefits of NHS Choices for GP consultations through a pop-up questionnaire completed by 2,613 users of NHS Choices and surveys completed by 1,581 patients in GP waiting rooms.

The research found that 37% of the people who used the NHS Choices website when considering a visit to their GP (approximately 50% of the total online users surveyed) said that it reduced the number of visits they made.

Just over 80% of these people were aged between 18 and 54. Researchers said a conservative estimate of the savings made through the use of NHS Choices in consultations by younger people was approximately £44m per year.

Health minister Simon Burns said: “It is vital that every penny spent on the NHS counts and the Imperial College research shows that tools like NHS Choices can help deliver savings.”

However, the Imperial College research also found that although 70% of patients in GP waiting rooms used internet sources of medical and health information only 6% used NHS Choices.

The researchers commented: “There is significant market demand for internet health and medical information.

"Currently most of that demand is being supplied by commercial operators with profit motivation and without the levels of validation and quality assurance employed by NHS Choices.”

The report also found that although GPs regularly accessed health-related internet sources, few used NHS Choices to help with consultations. Between 80% and 90% of online users of NHS Choices said the site had never been mentioned in a GP or practice nurse consultation.

Burns said more people were using the internet every day to organise their lives and increasingly doing so when it comes to their health.

He added: “For example, more and more people are taking the information they have found online with them when they consult their GP. It is important they can find accurate, trusted information from sources such as NHS Choices.”