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Vaccine status drives more than a million new users to NHS App

Over 11,000 people have registered their preference for organ donation via the NHS App in just four days, 10 times more than average for that time

Just days after mobile app tracking specialist App Annie recorded a flood of downloads of the UK National Health Service (NHS) App, after it was chosen to certify Covid-19 vaccine status on 7 May, official data has shown that just over 1.3 million new people have registered to use the mobile app since that time.

The data released by the UK’s Department of Health and Social Care also showed that since 10 May there have been 1,410,386 downloads of the NHS App and 1,302,611 new registered users. Since Monday 17 May, people have logged into the NHS App more than four million times and it now has more than 4.8 million registered users in total.

The UK government first mooted the idea of using an app as a digital vaccination passport in April 2021. On 12 May, the official NHS App was chosen as the digital mechanism by which a citizen’s Covid vaccination status will be indicated. The NHS App is currently used by patients to book appointments, order repeat prescriptions and view medical records.

It came as a surprise to some that the general NHS App was selected to indicate Covid-19 status, and not the country’s dedicated Covid-19 contact-tracing app, which, after a catalogue of delays, missteps and a complete technological volte-face, was officially launched on 24 September 2020 – more than four months later than originally proposed.

Users of the NHS App, which is available to UK citizens aged 13 or over and registered with a GP in England, are now able to access their Covid-19 vaccination status. The app – designed in line with World Health Organisation (WHO) interim guidance – is one of the first internationally compliant systems to demonstrate vaccine status in the world. This proof of vaccination feature has been added to the NHS App to satisfy requirements of entry to bars, museums and other venues in the UK and abroad.

Even as it was making its announcement, the UK government emphasised that, at present, not many countries were accepting the NHS App as proof of vaccination. It advised that, for the time being, most people would still need to follow other rules when travelling abroad, such as obtaining a negative pre-departure test.

The UK authorities say that the people were also accessing services more easily, with nearly 90,000 people since Monday using the app to order repeat prescriptions, saving clinicians and patients valuable time. Moreover, the boost in downloads is being seen as having life-saving benefits, as 11,483 additional people registered their preference for organ donation via the NHS App in just four days. Some 8,091 appointments were booked via the NHS App, a daily average of 2,002. This is double the daily average of appointments booked in April of around 1,000.

Read more about vaccine passports

The app was developed by the digital arm of the National Health Service, NHSX. Commenting on the performance of the app, NHSX chief executive Matthew Gould said: “This has been stood up in a matter of weeks, by a team working every hour to ensure we delivered a user-friendly service on time. We are really pleased with how it's been received, and even more pleased to see it get so many people using the online services of the NHS.”

UK Health and social care secretary Matt Hancock added: “The strides in technology and innovation we’ve made throughout the pandemic are having real consequences beyond fighting this virus – they’re making treatment, diagnosis and care better for patients. I want to thank all my colleagues at NHSX and NHS Digital who helped us to deliver the Covid-19 vaccine status service so quickly.

“The pace we’ve brought this to fruition is unparalleled and it is bringing immediate benefits to our wider health service,” he said.

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