The NHS is fulfilling its promise to provide wider access to NHS Direct with the opening of 153 public access points sited in schools and universities, health centres, supermarkets and holiday resorts around England, with one kiosk situated in Newport, Wales.
NHS Direct is a self-help scheme which incorporates Web-based information on healthcare issues and treatments backed up by a helpline manned by nurses. The scheme has been criticised by GPs who have expressed concern that some serious illnesses can only be diagnosed by a physical check-up and may go untreated, at least initially.
One use for the terminals is to provide health advice for holidaymakers who cannot visit their own GP and popular attractions at resorts, such as Blackpool's Pleasure Beach, have been targeted.
Health minister Gisela Stuart said, "The touch-screen terminals are another key element in modernising the NHS. NHS Direct, the 24-hour nurse-led telephone advice line, has already been a huge success and has provided invaluable healthcare information and advice to more than three million callers since its launch. NHS Direct On-line is also very successful and popular with more than 100,000 hits a day."
The technical development of the Web site was done by iXL, whose previous work includes the Comic Relief and Web MD sites. The site is hosted by UUnet.
Although there is only one Welsh kiosk at present, there are plans to produce a specialised, dual-language version of NHS Direct for the region. The initial phase of providing a country-wide telephone-based advice line is currently awaiting the go-ahead.