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NHS extends trials of digital identity system

The NHS in England is working with external organisations in new pilots to test its secure online login system for healthcare

The NHS has expanded a pilot programme for its new digital identity scheme to include external organisations that will need to connect to the system.

The programme, known as NHS Login, aims to allow patients to securely access online health records and services through a standard, nationwide system. It has already been tested with 3,400 patients across England as part of the new NHS App pilot, which began last October.

Now five partner organisations will trial using the system to allow users of their services to connect using NHS Login.

“This pilot is an exciting development to ensure external partners can connect to NHS Login. Once that’s possible the login will be a catalyst to enable patients to take greater control of their own health and make greater use of digital tools,” said NHS chief clinical information officer Simon Eccles.

The five organisations taking part in the tests are:

  • Tiny Medical Apps – an NHS-funded app for teenagers to manage long-term conditions such as asthma.
  • eConsult – an online consultation tool used by 600 GP practices.
  • Helm – a patient-held record being developed in Leeds which enables people to contribute to their own health and care record.
  • Audit and Transparency Summary Care Record – an NHS Digital programme giving people access to and audit of their Summary Care Record.
  • Digital Child Health – an NHS programme to enable a digital version of the paper Personal Child Health Record to allow parents and carers to view and access the care record of childhood immunisations, screening and health check information.

The NHS is building its own platform for online identity verification instead of using the Gov.uk Verify platform created by the Government Digital Service (GDS), due to concerns that Verify may not be secure enough for all NHS services.

The full version of NHS Login, which will provide a single login for local and national NHS online services, is likely to be launched in 2019/2020. From April 2019, the NHS App project will also begin to work with other health and care organisations and suppliers to connect them to the app, according to NHS Digital.

“A single NHS login will make it easier for people to use health and care websites and apps and lower the burden on the NHS by taking this task away from care workers on the front line,” said Ian Phoenix, director of citizen health technology at NHS Digital.

“NHS Login will make it easier and quicker for patients and the public to see their personal health information online, which will empower people to manage their health more effectively.”

The tech industry has called on government to provide greater clarity and direction on digital identity policy, highlighting the number of different ID systems being developed across the public sector.

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