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Patients will lose out as award-winning website is axed

Patients across the UK are set to lose out on independent, reliable health information as the Department of Health axes funding for BestTreatments - the award-winning website.

Since 2004, BestTreatments has been available through NHS Direct online. It was developed to help communication and decision-making between patients and professionals, by giving the public access to information on which treatments work and which don't, based on the best and most up-to-date research. It covers over 1,500 treatments used for 200 clinical problems, from minor ailments to more serious conditions like cancer. The site is constantly updated as new evidence is published.

People view nearly a million pages of BestTreatments information each month and it has been independently judged the most readable and accessible of 15 UK health sites. It was also recommended as one of the top health websites by the Patient Information Forum in a recent Times guide to good health.

"BestTreatments is currently the only independent, accessible and truly evidence-based service available to patients", says Editor, Cherrill Hicks. "By removing it, the Department of Health appears to be backtracking on its commitment to put patients at the centre of healthcare."

"We are surprised and disappointed by this decision," adds Dr David Tovey, Editorial Director for BestTreatments, "especially when NHS policy documents consistently promote the view that access to high-quality health information is essential if people are to be empowered to make genuinely informed choices.

The BMJ Group, who produce the BestTreatments website, has said that it remains committed to helping patients and their families make the best decisions about their care, in partnership with their doctor. "We will do everything possible to keep the site going, but this decision may leave us with little choice but to charge patients and doctors for the service in the longer term."

Commenting on the decision, Juliet Dunmur, deputy chair of the British Medical Association's Patient Liaison Group, says: "Like thousands of other patients, I've found BestTreatments to be both user-friendly and a valuable source of up-to-date information. It's a real shame that the government has decided to withdraw its support."

For more information on the BestTreatments website access