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New online service encourages patients to make the best health choices


Health and Social Care Board’s Dr Edward O’Neill explains how the new online A-Z symptom search, launched this week, helps patients in Northern Ireland make the best choices about their health and lifestyle.

Hosted by nidirect, the A to Z symptom search is a Health and Social Care Board initiative, in conjunction with the Department of Health, Public Health Agency, Patient and Client Council, and Land and Property Services.

Over 600 conditions and illnesses are currently listed on the site, with a further 100 planned by summer 2019. Links to GP surgeries, community pharmacies and other HSC services are also available on the site.

People can search using symptoms they may be experiencing, or using the name of a condition, if they already know it. They will also be able to browse the entire A to Z list of health conditions publishing, finding useful information in a clear, easy to read format.

Guest speakers at the launch of the A-Z symptom search

Department of Health Permanent Secretary Richard Pengelly with Dr Edward O’Neill, Health and Social Care Board, Karen Mooney, patients group, Royal College of General Practitioners Northern Ireland and Caron Alexander, Department of Finance.

The service will help users find high quality, trusted information on a variety of conditions aimed at making it easier to self-manage their condition, or know when, and how, to seek help from a healthcare professional.

The site has been developed with the help of patients who have helped shape the content.

Launching the online resource, Department of Health’s Permanent Secretary, Richard Pengelly, said: “This new facility is clearly aligned to the transformation of health services to make them focussed on the need of the patient. Working closely with the Health and Social Care Board, nidirect, the Public Health Agency and the Patient and Client Council, what has been achieved is a straightforward and customer friendly way for the public to seek healthcare advice.

 “By harnessing technology in this way, it helps us empower people to be more active in their own care and, in addition, has the potential to reduce demand on GPs and Emergency Departments. Already the ‘Health and Wellbeing’ section is one of the most visited elements of the nidirect site with over 130,000 visits monthly and we fully expect this to increase significantly.”

Patients and service users who helped shape the design and content of the new online service

Patients and service users who helped shape the design and content of the new online service

Consultant Medical Adviser with the Health and Social Care Board, Dr Edward O’Neill, said: “The information is tailored for a Northern Ireland audience, shaped through engagement; resulting in a suite of information that is both accessible and useful, being presented in plain language. It is already engaging the public to consider the best options for their health and wellbeing.”

Caron Alexander from Department of Finance, said: “I’m delighted that all the hard work to develop the symptom search has resulted in a very beneficial digital public service through nidirect.”

Karen Mooney, chair of the patients group, Royal College of General Practitioners in Northern Ireland, said: “Patients rely on being able to source trusted information which may help relieve pressure on GP practices as they understand alternative options available to them.”

For more information visit: www.nidirect.gov.uk/symptom-search