The health service is saving millions of pounds each year by encouraging people to diagnose their own ailments using the NHS Choices website, according to a new study.
The site, which offers patients a quick guide to illnesses, symptoms, diagnosis and treatment, received more than 100 million hits last year, and there has been a 10% increase in the number of visits in 2010, compared with 2009.
The Imperial College London study found that 70% of people search online for health information, with around a third deciding not to visit a GP after researching their illness.
The report also found that a staggering 19 million people logged on to check for information on swine flu, and more than 40,000 visitors have left comments and opinions on the levels of service and care received at hospitals and GP surgeries.
The study concluded that reductions in avoidable and unnecessary consultations, especially among young people, could result in savings of around £44m per year.
Health Minister Simon Burns said: “Every day we use the internet and technology to organise our lives, and increasingly when it comes to our health.
“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.
“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.
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