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 figures were also higher than average, according to figures from the UK Health Security Agency.

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:

  1. Coronavirus (16.3 million)
  2. Long Covid (4.3 million)
  3. High blood pressure (3.8 million)
  4. Chickenpox (3.7 million)
  5. Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) (3.5 million)
  6. Fever in children (3.4 million)
  7. Scarlet fever (3 million)
  8. Diarrhoea and vomiting (2.9 million)
  9. Tonsillitis (2.8 million)
  10. 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 represents manufacturers of 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.

‘It is also important to remember that self-care doesn’t mean no-care’, Ms Riddalls added, saying that digital tools like NHS 111 online can help signpost to and work in conjunction with community pharmacists ‘so that decisions about self-care can take place safely and with expert advice and input where necessary’.

‘NHS 111 online can directly refer people to their community pharmacist for a same-day consultation, rather than patients needing to call the phone line’, she added.

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.

PSNC’s director of NHS services, Alastair Buxton, said that the government-funded Pharmacy First service that PSNC had proposed to the government and to the NHS in March 2022 would work well alongside the digital access points of the NHS website information and 111 online.

‘Many people prefer a face-to-face service, which is where community pharmacy teams and the easy access to the network of pharmacies across England brings benefits to patients and the NHS,’ he added.