Headlines: April 6th, 2004

National Health Service patients can now access comprehensive health information from the British Medical Journal at the click of a mouse in the latest development of NHS Direct Online. It follows work by the Department of Health and the Journal to make available BMJ Best Treatments, which offers information on the most common health conditions.The information includes explanations of the arguments for and against elective surgery procedures, details of other available treatments, and advice on care before and after operations. The site will carry details of possible treatments for 60 chronic conditions, ranking their effectiveness and highlighting potential risks and benefits.

The Department of Health says Best Treatments will equip the public with evidence-based information in clear and accessible language and formats and help them to make informed decisions about their health care. So far this information has only been available to patients in the United States.

Best Treatments is based on Clinical Evidence, a print and web-based resource used by health professionals. People using the new online information can click to look at the ‘doctors’ version’ of the same topic if they wish. Conditions covered include Alzheimer’s, asthma, diabetes, high blood pressure, prostate cancer and strokes. Some Best Treatments information will be translated into a range of minority community languages during the next year.

The NHS Direct Online website has had more than six million visitors in the last year, a 50 per cent increase on the previous year’s traffic. Minister of State for Health Rosie Winterton said the department was aware that patients wanted more information to help them make decisions about healthcare and this development was an important step in giving them the resources they needed to make informed choices.