More patients than ever are going online to find health information and self-diagnose, which is potentially saving the NHS millions of pounds a year, according to separate reports published today.

One report shows the main NHS website received over 100 million visits in the last year, while a separate study from Imperial College found a third of those logging onto avoided booking a GP appointment afterwards - potentially saving the NHS £44 million a year.

The NHS Choices 2010 Annual Report published today shows there has been a 10 percent increase in the number of visits to the NHS website in 2010 compared to 2009, taking the number of times people logged on to the site to well over 100 million.

Separately, Imperial College research found 70 percent of patients use the internet to search for health information, with a third deciding not to visit their GP afterwards as they were able to find the information they were looking for.

Health minister Simon Burns said: "The Imperial College research shows that tools like NHS Choices can help deliver savings."

The 2010 NHS Choices annual report also found:

  • There were on average 200,000 visits a day to NHS Choices
  • 19 million people turned to NHS Choices to find information on swine flu during the height of the pandemic
  • Over 40,000 patients posted comments about hospitals and GP practices
  • NHS Choices partnered with over 170 external organisations, such as and mumsnet, to allow patients to access reliable health information across the board. This led to 25 million people viewing information on NHS Choices via partner websites.

The publication of reports showing the wide use of the NHS Choices website comes after the government announcement that it would be scrapping the popular NHS Direct phone helpline run by a high percentage of trained nurses.

There are fears that any replacement to NHS Direct will not have the same number of trained staff to help patients deal with medical issues.