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“Join us in making voices heard”: NHS Choices 5 years on
  1. Susan Quilliam
  1. Freelance Writer, Broadcaster and Agony Aunt, Cambridge, UK
  1. Correspondence to Ms Susan Quilliam; susan{at}

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Thirty years ago, my cervical smear result came back positive. Shaken, nervous, confused, I did what anyone of that era would do – traipsed off to the nearest library for help. When none was forthcoming, I repaired to the nearest bookshop. And the next bookshop. And the next. I never did track down either the information that my conscious mind was seeking nor the advice, reassurance and support that I subconsciously longed for. (In the end, I gave up on finding a book that addressed my concerns and wrote my own.)

Thirty years later, I wouldn't need to wear out my shoe leather. Nowadays, thankfully, I would be able to type in the words ‘positive smear’ and ‘cervical cancer’ on my laptop and get everything I needed in terms of information and consolation within a few seconds and in the comfort of my own home.

It was the realisation of just how dramatically things have changed in this respect that has led me, in this Consumer Correspondent article, to profile the second biggest health website in the world, NHS Choices. Hundreds of thousands of pages, 50 different service directories, 20 000 articles, 10 million users each month – concrete proof of the seismic shift in global health resources that has occurred in my own lifetime.

The beginning

NHS Choices' starting point was in 2007, with the realisation by those involved in British health care that even after decades of activity on the web, of well-meaning projects, of brave attempts at in-depth coverage, there was still no single, comprehensive health website that gave the searching patient information, advice, guidance and a chance to choose the best services and influence the development of those services.

The website arguably couldn't have been initiated previously. Not only was the technology not sufficiently advanced, not only were …

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  • Competing interests None.

  • Provenance and peer review Commissioned; internally peer reviewed.