Public roll-out of NHS App

Author: Adrian O'Dowd

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The NHS App which has been piloted across GP practices in England is being rolled out nationwide gradually, offering some patients the ability to book GP appointments, order repeat prescriptions and view their medical record.

The testing phase last year that involved more than 3,000 patients across 30 GP pilot practices has been successful, according to NHS England.

It is now available free on the Apple App (Apple) and Google Play (Android) stores with a web-based version due to launch in the coming months.

During testing between September and December of last year, NHS England and NHS Digital teams listened to feedback from patients and practice staff leading to changes including improving the online registration process, how GP appointment information is presented, and changes to the information patients see before accessing their GP medical record.

The app is now being rolled out across England, with individual GP practices needing to review some of their system settings before they can go live and all the functions of the NHS App being available.

Most practices are expected to go live between April and June of this year, with the NHS App expected to be fully rolled out to practices and patients by 1 July.

When a GP practice is connected, patients will be able to use the NHS App to:

  • book and manage appointments at their GP practice
  • order their repeat prescriptions
  • securely view their GP medical record
  • check their symptoms using NHS 111 online and the health A-Z on the NHS website
  • register as an organ donor
  • choose whether the NHS uses their data for research and planning.

Matthew Swindells, NHS England deputy chief executive, said: “The NHS wants to empower the public to take more control of their own healthcare, and the new app, which has already been tested by more than 3,000 people, 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.”

Wendy Clark, executive director of product development at NHS Digital, said: “It is an important step towards providing an NHS that is digitally accessible and means that patients know that whatever they access on this app is safe and trusted and will make a positive contribution to their health and wellbeing.”

Professor Helen Stokes-Lampard, chair of the Royal College of General Practitioners, said: “The new NHS App promises to be a significant and constructive step forward in using technology to support patients to manage their own care and wellbeing.

“We hope it will make navigating primary care services easier for patients by making it possible for them to book appointments, order prescriptions, and check their medical records on their smartphone, if they wish to.

“Many GP practices already offer patients a range of digital services, such as self-check-in desks and text message reminders for appointments, and electronic symptom checkers and email contact with their surgery. This app will certainly complement those initiatives, but we need to make sure that patients who do not have access to a smartphone – or are just not as tech-savvy - can continue to make bookings and access healthcare in more traditional ways.

“For those that do use it, adequate safeguards must be in place to ensure the utmost protection of patients’ personal data.”

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