Public rollout begins for NHS App

The NHS App has started its public rollout following successful private testing with more than 3,000 patients across 30 GP practices.

Having entered the Apple App and Google Play stores on 31 December, NHS England has revealed that a web based version of the NHS App is due to launch in the coming months. 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 will be available.

Changes made following the testing and feedback include improvements to the online registration process, how GP appointment information is presented, and alterations to the information patients see before accessing their GP medical record.

When the 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; and choose whether the NHS uses their data for research and planning.

Most practices will go live between April and June 2019, with the NHS App expected to be fully rolled out to practices and patients by 1 July 2019.

Matthew Swindells, deputy chief executive of NHS England, 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.”

Health Secretary Matt Hancock added: “I love the NHS so I want it to use all modern technology to serve patients. The NHS App will give patients more control over their own healthcare and revolutionise the way we access services.

“It marks a shift towards a truly digitised NHS and will allow patients to secure a GP appointment with the click of a button, rather than having to join a queue of callers. 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.”

Helen Stokes-Lampard, chair of the Royal College of GPs, said: "Technology plays an increasingly important role in the NHS, and in our patients' lives. 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, especially as people's confidential medical records will now be accessible via their mobile phones if they choose this option and therefore, potentially more vulnerable to security breaches. It's also essential that the app is thoroughly and independently evaluated to ensure it is safe and cost-effective, and ultimately, beneficial to both patients and GP practices without unnecessarily increasing our workload."

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