An app for every year: the National Health Service hits 70

In wake of the absolute fanfare of publicity, it’s fair to say that anyone who does not know that the NHS turned 70 at the beginning of July must be living under a proverbial rock. However, I’d wager that the majority of the population have no idea that the service hit another milestone at the same time that the birthday balloons were being inflated: the seventieth app was released to its Apps Library.

Launched in April of last year, the NHS Apps Library aims to educate and help those who visit the site through the use of digital tools, the service apparently awakening to the fact that digitalisation is, colloquially speaking, the way forward. Indeed, NHS Digital reports that “there have been over a quarter of a million visits in the last year and more than half of those were from mobile phones”, underpinning perceptions within the service that the way in which healthcare is accessed is in a state of metamorphosis.

The apps themselves are sundry and engaging, ranging from diet and home-cooking advice to prevent the onset of obesity (‘Easy Meals’ and ‘Smart Recipes’) to the management of mental health (‘My Possible Self’), addressing offshoot-problems like stress and insomnia that could contribute to an impaired state of wellbeing. Although the number of topics is comprehensive, it does not go unnoticed that certain aspects of self-care have been neglected. In contrast to a wealth of information about diabetes and mindfulness, there are no apps dedicated to advising the public on how to monitor their sexual health, or cope with a chronic eating disorder, or identify symptoms of tooth decay and gum disease, to name just three examples. Perhaps this is forgivable on the basis that, as the chief digital officer at NHS England Juliet Bauer says, mental health and diabetes are “two of [the NHS’s] biggest challenges” – so much so that preventative healthcare really is at the forefront of this growing digital platform. As to whether the Apps Library is effective, or whether 250,000 visits to the page are sufficient to make an impact, is another story.


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