Inside the NHS App

In late January NHS England launched the NHS App – a new innovation which the healthcare body hopes will transform access for patients. Available for free across England, by 1 July all practices should be signed-up. Practice Business goes inside the NHS App to give you the lowdown

The national launch of the NHS App follows a successful private testing phase involving more than 3,000 patients across 30 GP practices in England. During this process NHS England listened to feedback from patients and practice staff and used this to make improvements to the app and plan the national rollout.

Changes included improving the online registration process, how GP appointment information is presented, and changes to the information patients see before accessing their GP medical record. In late January NHS England released the app into the Apple and Google Play app stores, making it freely available to patients across England.

What will it do?

The NHS App has been designed to enable patients to carry out simple task that can improve their care. NHS England hopes that automating some processes can reduce the administrative burden on practices. Automatic appointment reminders may also help to reduce the number of DNAs – a particular drain on practice resources. Using the app, patients will be able to:

  • book and manage appointments at their GP practice (including cancelling them);
  • 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.

The app is the first to use the NHS login, a single system that verifies the identity of people who request access to digital health records and services; it’s a secure way of sharing healthcare information without interference. The majority of patients aged 16 years and over should be able to verify their identities and register for services in the app by using their NHS login. Over time, the identity will become an essential means for patients to manage access to healthcare services.

Patients across England can download the app for free from the Google Play and Apple app stores; however, while they may have access to the app itself, it could be a while before they are able to use all the services.

GP practices across England are gradually being connected to the app, with a deadline of 1 July 2019 for all practices to be linked. In some areas, early adopting CCGs have worked with practices to ensure that services are available through the app from its launch date. 

Future of the app?

Health secretary Matt Hancock, like his predecessor, is a champion of digital technology, and sees the release of the app as the start of a longer-term plan. “We will continue to add new features in the future to make the app the ‘one stop shop’ for all NHS services, as part of our long-term plan to build the most advanced health and care system in the world,” he says.

One of those who is enthusiastic about the app is Andy Kinnear, director of digital transformation at South, Central and West Commissioning Support Unit. In a recent interview with Practice Business Andy explained his view. “Primary care is bearing the brunt of the increasing pressure on the health service. As we shift towards a digitally-focused NHS, innovations like this app will help to reduce the burden on primary care, while simultaneously increasing patient satisfaction.”

Lawrence David of Copywriting Bristol, a copywriting and content agency based in the city, is supportive. “The app offers a huge amount of potential for patients and practices, as long as the NHS delivers on its promises.”

The NHS App offers patients significant control over their healthcare and, in time, will grow to become an essential means for them to manage their own care. Improving access for patients, and reducing the burden on primary care, the NHS App is mutually beneficial and should find favour with patients and practices alike.

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