Patients are being asked to rate and comment on NHS services on a website launched this week.

The Department of Health is comparing the NHS Choices site to tripadvisor.com, which publishes travellers' holiday reviews.

Patients can rate trusts and comment on their experiences of secondary care, although references to individual clinicians or health professionals will be removed.

They will also be able to compare hospitals on factors such as average length of stay for different treatments, readmission rates, patient survey results and infection levels.

Junior health minister Andy Burnham told HSJ: 'Health is the second most researched topic on the internet. There's lots of information out there but what is lacking is lots of validated, authoritative, relevant information. We will see criticism but I also feel people will log on to record thanks and appreciation.'

An electronic health library used by clinicians has been re-written in 'ordinary language' so patients can find out more about illnesses and treatments. The website will be able to create tailored individual and family health risk assessments based on age, sex and location.

Hospitals are being encouraged to add to the site by creating their own pages with localised information, governed by the same advertising guidelines used across the NHS. In time, the system is likely to be rolled out to primary care, although this is under consultation. Services provided through the independent sector on the NHS can also be rated.

The DoH has spent£3.6m on the website and plans to spend a further£10m a year to keep it going. It is run by Dr Foster Intelligence.

Mr Burnham was confident that, in time, it will become more accessible to disadvantaged groups, such as the elderly.

He said: 'There will be lots of public access points in libraries. Staff have been trained to take people through the website in libraries, pharmacies and patient groups.

'There may be a section of the population who find it difficult to access, but it will quickly become more readily available.'

The DoH is looking at making information available through mobile phones.

www.nhschoices.nhs.uk