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People using the NHS website to diagnose themselves are saving the organisation millions of pounds in unnecessary doctors' appointments.

NHS Choices received 100 million visitors last year according to its annual report. About 19 million people looked at the site for information on swine 'flu and 40,000 left comments about medical services.

The site also syndicates its content freely to other organisations, including Primary Care Trusts, GPs' surgeries, Boots and Mumsnet. Material on these 150 sites was seen by 25 million people over the year.

Research from Imperial College, based on an online questionnaire completed by 4,000 patients, found that 37 per cent believed using the service reduced their use of GP services. This equates to savings of £44m in unnecessary appointments.

It is also far cheaper: a click on NHS Choices costs 46 pence, compared to £16 for a call to NHS Direct or £32 for a visit to a doctor's surgery.

NHS Choices also began publishing hospital mortality figures on the site. The sites' alcohol tracker was downloaded 35,000 times. ®

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