NHS advice on coronavirus to be posted at top of internet searches

PUBLISHED: 08:01 10 March 2020 | UPDATED: 08:43 10 March 2020

Government advice stresses the importance of personal hygiene to combat the coronavirus outbreak. Pic: Philip Toscano/PA News.

Government advice stresses the importance of personal hygiene to combat the coronavirus outbreak. Pic: Philip Toscano/PA News.

Official NHS guidance is to be displayed at the top of internet search results as part of measures to stop the spread of disinformation around Covid-19.

It comes as the NHS warns of the spread of misleading information around the coronavirus outbreak.

The health service has highlighted a fake account it had suspended from Twitter after it posed as a hospital and posted inaccurate information about coronavirus cases.

The account, claiming to be a hospital in Andover, Hampshire, falsely posted that it had received a number of patients with coronavirus-like symptoms before it was suspended by Twitter.

MORE: People with 'minor' cold symptoms could be asked to stay at home to help prevent spread of coronavirus

Hampshire Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust declined to comment on the account but the NHS said it was continuing to work with Twitter to remove false accounts and other misleading information.

In response and as part of a new range of features for internet platforms, the health service said it had worked with Google, Twitter, Facebook and Instagram on ways to help promote 'good advice' when people were searching online for information.

Sir Simon Stevens, NHS chief executive, said: 'Ensuring the public has easy access to accurate NHS advice, however they search for it, not only will support people to take the right action but will also help the country's response to coronavirus.

'The NHS has already been battling coronavirus fake news, from working to take down false Twitter accounts to speaking out against misleading treatments being promoted by homeopaths online.

'It's right that social media platforms and search engines take any action so they can help ensure the public are directed to NHS advice first.'

He thanked NHS staff for 'caring for patients, testing thousands of worried people and taking calls from thousands more'.

The health service is also working with social media companies to verify more than 800 accounts belonging to NHS organisations including hospital trusts and other local groups.

MORE: Two N&N Hospital workers self-isolate as precaution over coronavirus

The range of new online tools will also include Knowledge Panels - prominent pop-out boxes of information - in Google search results on mobile devices.

The boxes are part of a new partnership between the NHS and Google, and will offer easy access to official information about more than 250 conditions, including Covid-19.

The Government has previously announced a new specialist unit that is working with social media firms to monitor platforms for misinformation and remove such content.

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