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NHS England has begun the public roll-out of the long-awaited NHS App, which aims to provide a digital front door to NHS services.
The app, which is now available on Apple and Google Play stores, can now be downloaded and used by patients across England. This follows an invite-only beta stage, which began in September 2018 with around 3,000 patients.
It currently only covers an app version, but a browser version of the app will be available in “coming months”, according to NHS England.
The app aims to give patients access to a range of NHS services, including being able to book appointments, view their medical records, order repeat prescriptions, select their data-sharing preferences, organ donation preferences, end-of-life care preferences and access NHS 111 online’s symptom checker and triage service.
The beta testing, which took place between September and December, resulted in a few changes to the app, including the online registration process, how GP appointment information is presented to the patient and changes to the information patients are given before accessing their records.
Health secretary Matt Hancock said the app “will give patients more control over their own healthcare and revolutionise the way we access services”.
“It marks a shift towards a truly digitised NHS and will allow patients to secure a GP appointment with the click of a button, rather than having to join a queue of callers. We will continue to add new features in the future to make the app the one stop shop for all NHS services, as part of our long-term plan to build the most advanced health and care system in the world.”
Read more about NHS IT
- NHS England’s chief digital officer is jumping ship, just as the NHS begins implementing its long-term plan, to join Swedish GP video consultation provider Livi.
- Robert Coles, who joined NHS Digital as its chief information and security officer in October 2018, is stepping down from the role for personal reasons.
- The NHS Long Term Plan aims to empower people through the use of technology and create a digital-first NHS, offering virtual outpatient appointments, digital GP consultations and improved cyber security.
The app will be fully integrated into the four major GP IT systems used in England, and will be available to any patient over the age of 13, who is registered with a GP in England.
However, individual patients’ access to services will depend on their local GP practice. The GP practices will need to connect to the app and review their own system settings before going live with all the functions offered by the app.
Should a GP practice not have connected to the app yet, patients will only be able to use the app to check their symptoms, NHS 111 online and access the NHS website.
According to NHS England, most GP practices will go live with the app between April and June, and it expects the app to be fully rolled out by 1 July 2019.
NHS England deputy CEO Matthew Swindells said the NHS wants people to take more control over their own healthcare and that the app “will put the NHS into the pocket of everyone in England, providing safe and secure access to trusted health information, 111 online, repeat prescriptions and GP appointments”.
“Through the Long Term Plan, we see the app as the digital front door into the NHS, for those who want to use it, and once rolled out, we will continue to develop and enhance its offer to patients, making it the must-have health app for everyone in England,” he said.
Citizen ID programme
The app is also tied into the NHS’s Citizen ID programme, now dubbed NHS Login, which is intended to be the single way to securely access online health records and services. The platform is also in trial stage, and a full identity verification system is unlikely to be launched until 2019/2020.
However, the aim is that people using the app will verify their identity using the NHS Login platform, thereby being able to securely access their records, or change their preferences on care plans.