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Vomit virus drives punters to NHS Choices over Christmas

NHS Choices attracted 56% more users, many on their mobes

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The Department of Health (DoH) has reported a 56 per cent increase in the number of people using NHS Choices in October to December 2011 compared to the same period last year.

According to the DoH, the health information website hosted 368,000 visits, 133,000 more visits a day than 2010.

During the Christmas period concerns about norovirus drove up visits to pages on the winter vomiting bug by 162 per cent compared to last year. Between 19 and 27 December 2011 there was an 117 per cent increase in traffic to these pages compared to the previous week.

Overall, between October to the end of December, there were 116,085 visits to the norovirus pages this year compared to 70,347 visits in 2010.

Visits to content on flu and colds on the site were down, with more people looking for information about the flu jab. The DoH said there has been a 91 per cent rise in hits on the "who should have it" page and a 73 per cent increase in visits to the "about the vaccine" page.

Winter visits to NHS Choices are now averaging just under 11 million a month compared to 6.8 million at the same time last year. Annually, there has been a 35 per cent increase in visits to the site.

The department believes there is a growing interest in people seeking health advice using mobile phone applications, demonstrated by increases of 43 per cent and 13 per cent respectively in downloads of NHS Choices' alcohol tracker and quit smoking mobile phone iPhone applications over the previous year. NHS Direct's app has been downloaded 1m times in the six months since its launch in May 2011.

Simon Burns, the health minister, said: "The internet is an increasingly popular source of health advice for millions of people, especially over the busy winter period.

"I am pleased that over 50 per cent more patients than this time last year are getting accurate, reliable online advice about how to best manage their symptoms to get them on the road to recovery as quickly as possible."

This article was originally published at Guardian Government Computing.

Guardian Government Computing is a business division of Guardian Professional, and covers the latest news and analysis of public sector technology. For updates on public sector IT, join the Government Computing Network here.

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