top of page

Eczema website helps patients and the NHS

A website to help people manage their eczema could be saving the NHS hundreds of thousands of pounds.

The website, developed by Southampton researchers, is known as Eczema Care Online (ECO). It is available for free at, and over 35,000 people have used it so far.

New research, co-led by Prof Miriam Santer, shows users not only had a better quality of life, but also had lower hospital care and medication costs. The work forms part of the Respiratory and Allergy theme at the NIHR Southampton Biomedical Research Centre.

The economic analysis, led by Prof Tracey Sach, has been published in the European Journal of Health Economics. They show the website could provide significant savings for the NHS at the same time as improving eczema care.

Living with eczema

Eczema is a condition that causes skin to become red, itchy and dry. It can affect people of all ages, but is most common in babies and children. It is very common, with a considerable impact on people’s quality of life and significant costs for the NHS.

Advice on how to treat and manage the condition can make living with eczema easier, but health professionals often don't have time to go into detail. People with eczema and their families often say they would like more information about the condition and how to manage it.

Empowering patients and families

The website helps patients and their families to manage eczema. It provides information on what eczema is, how to treat it, and tips to prevent it getting worse.

It uses behaviour change techniques and evidence-based resources shown to improve symptoms. Previous research has shown the website improves eczema symptoms in children and young people.

In this study, 650 participants were either given access to the website alongside usual care, or usual care alone. Those who used the website had a better quality of life and reduced NHS costs after twelve months.

“Use of the website is a win-win,” says Prof Santer, Professor of Primary Care Research at the University of Southampton.

“Parents and young people are able to take control of their condition, and the NHS can reduce costs and provide people with evidence-based information that could otherwise be missed within a short primary care appointment.”

Reducing NHS costs

The results suggest the website saves the NHS between £20.82 and £34.15 per patient with eczema (or their parent) who visits. As the website has now been visited by over 35,000 people, the potential savings to the NHS to date could range from £700,000 to over £1 million.

The study was funded by the NIHR and a collaboration between the University of Southampton, University of Nottingham, University of Bristol, University of East Anglia and London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine.

Tracey Sach is Professor of Health Economics at the University of Southampton and lead for the economic component of the study.

“Our previous paper in the BMJ demonstrated that the ECO website helped improve symptoms and outcomes for children and young people with eczema,” she says. “Now this new work demonstrates that this free-at-point-of-use website is low cost to run and cost-effective for the NHS.”

‘Greater confidence’

Researchers spoke to parents and young people who had used the website, to understand what made it effective. They said the website helped them to better understand eczema, reassured them about the safety of treatments, and made them feel more confident in using treatments.

Prof Santer said: “The main change was greater confidence in managing eczema and understanding how treatments work, for example, the difference between regularly using moisturisers to prevent flare-ups and the prompt use of topical corticosteroids to manage flare-ups.”

Parents and young people also said that reading about the experiences of others with eczema helped them feel ‘normal’ and less alone.

One said: “ECO is great if I have a quick question about something. Before I would have harassed my mum to take me to the doctors, which is a pain if you just have a very basic question, but now I just have a look on ECO.”

Kate’s daughter Ellie (age 12), from the Portsmouth area, had severe and unresponsive eczema from when she was just six weeks old.

“I had never dealt with this condition before, and I understood it to be a mild irritation that is quickly fixed by some moisturiser. The reality is far more complex.

“Life quickly became a whirlwind of flare-ups, infections, lotions, and potions. I spent lots of money on the latest 'miracle' products which sometimes made things even worse.

“Eczema Care Online really is a one-stop shop for everything you could ever need to know about understanding and managing eczema. It's reassuring to know that all of the information on there is thoroughly researched and up to date.”


bottom of page