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NHS patient site set for summer launch

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A new patient choice website, including patient reviews of hospitals, has been announced by health secretary Patricia Hewitt.

She announced that NHS Choices will go live during the summer. It is being developed by Dr Foster Intelligence, LBi and Sapient, following an invitation to tender in January.

"Patients will soon be able to choose, with the click of a button, where they want to have their treatment," said Hewitt. "Our new choice website will allow the public and clinicians to access a range of information through one super site that will act as a gateway to navigate NHS services."

In addition, from 11 April around 30 libraries in 10 local authority areas will run pilots in which library staff will help patients to choose hospitals for treatments online.

The Choices website will include: "searchable comprehensive directories e.g. on hospitals, GPs and care homes; comparative data on hospital waiting times, cleanliness and readmission rates; (and) individual and family health risk assessments based on age, sex and location," according to the Department of Health.

The site will also have a range of multimedia content, and a function for patients to comment on their hospital treatment.

Paul Hodgkin, chief executive of Patient Opinion – which already provides a patient review service for the NHS – says his organisation may help provide this aspect of NHS Choices.

"The Department of Health would like us to be involved in the patient feedback bit of the site, and all other things being equal we would like that too," he said, adding that it would make sense for Patient Opinion's experience to be drawn upon.

However, Hodgkin said issues such as the location of the personal data need to be resolved.

"Our view is that these sorts of sites are better drawn from a civil society base, rather than government, but that's not where it's coming from," he said.

The opening of the Choices website will be accompanied by patients gaining the ability to choose any provider in the country for orthopaedic and hip replacement treatments. "Free" choice will to apply to all treatments from April 2008, but has been brought forward for these procedures.

"The BMA welcomes putting patients at the centre of everything," British Medical Association chairman James Johnson said in a statement. "While this website is likely to have a lot of useful information, we need to make sure the information is accurate and that patients are able to use it meaningfully. For that reason it must not be presented in technical jargon."

The libraries involved in the patient choice pilot are in seven London boroughs, Derbyshire, Gloucestershire and Suffolk.

This article was originally published at Kablenet.

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