Labour promises digital red book and smartphones for children with diabetes

The Labour Party has announced plans for children’s health records to be put on parents’ NHS App, while also partnering with Virgin Media O2 to give children with type 1 diabetes smartphones to check their blood sugar

The Labour Party plans to transform children’s health records by digitising the red book and giving parents access to their children’s records through the NHS App.

The red book, which parents are given after the birth of a child to record vaccines and height and weight measurements, has been available in paper form for more than 30 years.

There have been attempts by previous health secretaries to digitise it, and while in some areas of the country parents are offered a digital red book app, this is not the case in most places.

Shadow health secretary Wes Streeting said Labour wants today’s children to be part of the “healthiest generation that ever lived”.

“That’s why we will digitise the red book, so children’s health records are on the NHS App. This major step will transform children’s healthcare and will mean more children protected against measles. Now measles is back, it’s hard to think of a clearer sign of Britain’s decline under the Tories,” he said.

“With the red book on the app, the NHS will be able to notify every parent of an unprotected child, give them accurate information about the MMR vaccine, and invite their child to get vaccinated. That’s how a modern health service would tackle this public health crisis.”

Labour also wants patients to take more control over the NHS App. In his speech setting out the party’s NHS reform plans in 2023, Labour leader Keir Starmer criticised the government for not going far enough with the app.

At the time, he said Labour would take the app and other innovations and “deepen them, expand them, put them in the hands of the patients and use them to transform our relationship with the NHS”.

Labour has since announced that its plans for the app include allowing patients to receive notifications when they are eligible for vaccines and screening tests, be informed what care to expect from the NHS when they are diagnosed with long-term conditions, and be able to look up which GP in their area provides the best care for their conditions.

Starmer said his party would give the power to the patient.

“You’ll be able to refer yourself direct to specialists, so you don’t have to wait a month for a pointless GP appointment and GPs’ time isn’t wasted on box-ticking,” he said.

“The app shouldn’t just be for healthcare, but healthier living too. When you reach the right age, you’ll receive notifications for jabs, tests and screening, to catch diseases like breast and bowel cancer early.”

Patient access to medical records on their phones and invitations to take part in clinical trials will also be part of Labour’s upgraded NHS App.

The party has also signed a partnership with Virgin Media O2 to give every child with type 1 diabetes access to smartphone technology. Children with diabetes are already given monitors to enable parents to track their glucose levels through smartphones, but Labour said hundreds of families are unable to afford smartphones and therefore cannot take advantage of the technology.

The party’s partnership with Virgin Media O2 and the Supporting Children with Diabetes charity will see every family given a smartphone to benefit from the technology. Those families in need will be identified by the NHS.

In an interview with ITV News on the partnership, Starmer said: “It’s a travesty that hundreds of children with type 1 diabetes can’t afford smartphones to take advantage of new monitors which check and monitor glucose levels. This technological breakthrough should be available to all children who need it, not just to those who can afford a device.

“There is a revolution in medical technology taking place before our eyes. Under the Tories, the NHS is failing to secure the advantages of AI [artificial intelligence] and new treatments for its patients, but private healthcare won’t. If this continues, the two-tier healthcare system that is emerging in our country today will grow, the gap between public and private widen, and the NHS will become the poor man’s service. That is the future we must avoid.”

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