Tara Donnelly reflects on the progress of the NHS App so far and considers what the future may hold

Tara Donnelly reflects on the progress of the NHS App so far and considers what the future may hold

In January 2019, The NHS Long Term plan  launched - and put digitally-enabled care centre stage. We know that digital technology has incredible potential to transform the health and care services we provide for the better: enhancing the provision, personalisation and efficient delivery of care.

The NHS App will be a fundamental part of delivering this. The App is the digital front door into the NHS for those who wish to use it, providing a simple and secure way for people to access a range of NHS services on their smartphone, tablet or PC.

The NHS App creates a universal offer to people across England, providing:

  • Symptom checking
  • Access to online 111
  • Appointment booking and changing
  • Repeat prescriptions
  • Access to primary care summary care record
  • Organ donation and preferences
  • National Data Opt-Out preferences

We have already been on quite a journey with the NHS App. Keen to ensure we provided the best possible user experience for people, we embarked on private beta testing between September and December 2018 on 34 practices, and with over 3,000 patients. Colleagues from across NHS England and NHS Digital engaged with and drew on the feedback from patients and practice staff to make enhancements. This feedback also helped us make improvements to NHS Login, our simple, secure patient verification system, which provides access to the NHS App. During this period, we also planned for national rollout.

Now in April 2019, we are firmly engaged in rolling out the NHS App across the country. The App is currently live in over a third of GP practices in England, with ~17 million people having access to the services it provides. We are aiming to have to have the whole country enabled by this summer.

Crucial to the success of the NHS App is effective engagement with GP practices, who undertake the important enabling work locally. We are sharing guidance with practice managers to ensure they know what they need to do to prepare both systems, and staff, for connection.

The GP Contract Five Year Framework, also published in January 2019, stated that ‘all practices will ensure at least 25% of appointments are available for online booking by July 2019’. Having this as a minimum will ensure that patients have appointments to book through the NHS App, therefore providing a good user experience.  Many practices however are already going further than this and several are making 100% appointments viewable to their patients via the NHS App.

The NHS App won’t remain static; in a world where technology is constantly developing and improving, we are aware of the exciting possibilities that could lie ahead. Integration with other, innovative digital products is a natural next step; and while we are developing further features within the App, on the whole we are not aiming to build these solutions ourselves.

Instead, we are setting clear standards, working closely with partners and healthtech suppliers, and exploring approaches for integration such as through open APIs. This is technical work, but it will provide resolutely human results: ensuring the delivery of a good, consistent, patient experience.

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26-27 June 2019 | ExCeL London