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New NHS app to improve patients access to GP services

Patients will be able to book appointments with their GP and reorder prescriptions using the app from the end of the year

Ingrid Torjesen

Monday, 02 July 2018

An NHS app, which will allow patients to book appointments with their GP, order repeat prescriptions and access their GP record, will be launched at the end of the year, the government has announced.

Patients will also be able to access 111 online for urgent medical queries and manage long-term conditions using the app, which is being developed by NHS England and NHS Digital.

The app will also allow patients to state whether they are willing to be an organ donor, and their preferences on sharing of their NHS data and what they would like for end-of-life care.

Health and Social Care secretary Jeremy Hunt said: “The NHS app is a world-first which will put patients firmly in the driving seat and revolutionise the way we access health services.

“I want this innovation to mark the death-knell of the 8am scramble for GP appointments that infuriates so many patients.”

He added that technology had transformed everyday life in terms of access to banking, travel and shopping.

“Health matters much more to all of us, and the prize of that same digital revolution in healthcare isn’t just convenience but lives improved, extended and saved,” he said

NHS England national director of operations and information Matthew Swindells said: “The new app will take the NHS to a world-leading position by empowering all our patients using digital technology to take charge of their own healthcare and contact the NHS in a way that suits them.

“The new app will put the NHS into the pocket of everyone in England but it is just one step on the journey. We are also developing an NHS Apps Library and putting free NHS wifi in GP surgeries and hospitals.”

Professor Helen Stokes-Lampard, chair of the Royal College of GPs, said that the NHS must remain up to date with the technologies that the public – and thus patients – are using, and that the NHS app “represents a significant and constructive step forward in the way care is managed”.

"Some practices already offer many online services and many have steps in place to adopt new technology but GPs and our team are working flat out to meet patient demand and it is vital that all GP surgeries are provided with the additional support and the resources they need to ensure it is introduced as seamlessly as possible without disruptions to patients or practices.”

Adequate safeguards must also be put in place to ensure the utmost protection of patients' personal data, “Considering that patient's medical history will be accessible on individual's mobile phones on the apps, we need to ensure that the security and reliability of the identity verification processes being used are of the highest international security standards.”

And while it is likely that “smartphone savvy patients” will embrace booking their GP appointments via this app – rather than calling their GP surgery, she said: “It is important that patients who do not have a smartphone can continue to make bookings via phone or in person.”

The app will be available for download through the App Store or Google Play and once downloaded patients will then just have to sign up for an NHS account.

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