Patients able to compare treatment by GPs online

Patients will be able to compare the performance of their local family doctors and nearby hospitals on a single website, under plans to bring the NHS into the information age.

From next year key information, currently contained on more than 4,000 separate NHS websites, will be rolled into a single site.

Patients will be able to see how well their local GP practice compares with those around them for treating conditions such as heart disease, diabetes and asthma.

They will also be able to see the clinical outcomes for a range of operations by hospitals – and accessing feedback from other patients.

The information will also be made available in "raw" form to software developers in the hope that the private sector will step in to produce applications which can help people choose between local services.

Andrew Lansley, the Health Secretary, also announced that patient medical records would be accessible online within three years and that GP surgeries would be required to allow patients to book and cancel appointments online. Repeat prescriptions and test results would also be available online.

The moves are part of a strategy, following months of wrangling over the health bill, to show that the Government is being responsive to patient needs.

Mr Lansley hope that by harnessing technology they can drive up standards across the NHS and allow patients to be more discerning in where the choose to be treated.

Announcing the new proposals yesterday Mr Lansley said that together the moves would give individuals more "power" over their care.

The announcement has been broadly welcomed by doctors leaders and NHS managers.

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