Scarlet fever, chickenpox and coronavirus were some of the most commonly viewed conditions on the NHS website in 2022, according to figures compiled by NHS Digital.
The page relating to scarlet fever received seven times the amount of views it did in 2021, making it the seventh most visited page in 2022 – higher than diarrhoea and vomiting, tonsillitis, and rashes in babies and children.
Cases of scarlet fever spiked in late 2022, with 35,616 reported cases of scarlet fever between September 2022 and January 2023, compared with 30,000 across the whole year in 2017/18 when
Parents were warned to ‘be aware’ of the symptoms of scarlet fever, which include common conditions such as a sore throat and fever, and were told to contact their GP if symptoms should occur.
Widespread concern around Strep A, the virus that causes scarlet fever, led to increased demand for antibiotics and reported issues with supply and access to the medicines, particularly among liquid formulations used for children.
There were also 60 times as many visits to the NHS webpage about monkeypox as there were in 2021, taking it to 2.1m views in 2022.
Monkeypox, also known as mpox, made national news when cases of the rare viral infection were confirmed in England in May 2022.
High blood pressure took third place, with 3.8m views in 2022, while ADHD was the fifth most-visited condition at 3.5m visitors in 2022 compared to 3.1m in 2021.
The ten medical condition information pages with the most visitors in 2022 were:
- Coronavirus (16.3 million)
- Long Covid (4.3 million)
- High blood pressure (3.8 million)
- Chickenpox (3.7 million)
- Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) (3.5 million)
- Fever in children (3.4 million)
- Scarlet fever (3 million)
- Diarrhoea and vomiting (2.9 million)
- Tonsillitis (2.8 million)
- Rashes in babies and children (2.7 million).
Joe Risk, head of delivery for the NHS website, said: ‘Providing access to the latest medical advice and making it as easy as possible for people to access is our top priority, to ensure we continue to support and improve health across the country.’
Michelle Riddalls, chief executive of PAGB, which produces common over-the-counter medication, commented that the figures were ‘encouraging’, with 2.6m visitors a day to the NHS website suggesting that people were taking a ‘self-care first’ approach and knew how to access reliable information.
However, she added that a recent PAGB survey found that rising numbers of people reported feeling overwhelmed by the amount of health information available online, and said they wish they knew more about how to spot ‘fake’ health information.
Ms Riddalls also reiterated calls for a national self-care strategy. ‘The Government must ensure that people, not matter where they live in the UK, have the tools to self-care. That is why we need a national self-care strategy to help ensure consistent policies being implemented across the NHS that encourage and enable self-care for self-treatable conditions,’ she said.