The NHS has launched a new app that lets patients book GP appointments and access their GP record.
Developed by NHS Digital and NHS England, the app also lets users order repeat prescriptions, manage long-term conditions and access 111 online for urgent medical queries.
One of the app’s aims is to hopefully get rid of the 8am morning rush some people have to go through to book a GP appointment.
Patients who download the app can secure an appointment through the platform rather than having to join a queue of callers ringing the local surgery each morning.
The app also lets patients state their preferences for data-sharing, organ donation and end-of-life care.
Speaking about the app, health and social care secretary Jeremy Hunt said: “The NHS app is a world-first which will put patients firmly in the driving seat and revolutionise the way we access health services. I want this innovation to mark the death-knell of the 8am scramble for GP appointments that infuriates so many patients.
Technology has transformed everyday life when it comes to banking, travel and shopping. Health matters much more to all of us, and the prize of that same digital revolution in healthcare isn’t just convenience but lives improved, extended and saved.
As the NHS turns 70 and we draw up a long-term plan for the NHS on the back of our £394 million a week funding boost, it’s time to catch up and unleash the power of technology to transform everyday life for patients.”
NHS England national director of Operations and Information Matthew Swindells said: “In the NHS’s 70th year, the new app will take the NHS to a world-leading position by empowering all our patients using digital technology to take charge of their own healthcare and contact the NHS in a way that suits them.
The new app will put the NHS into the pocket of everyone in England but it is just one step on the journey. We are also developing an NHS Apps Library and putting free NHS wi-fi in GP surgeries and hospitals.”
The Royal of General Practitioners (RCGP) gave a cautionary welcome to the app, warning against potentials of an increase in patient demand and security needs.
Professor Helen Stokes-Lampard, chair of the RCGP, said: “Apps are increasingly a vital part of our everyday lives and as technology adapts in the 21st century, the healthcare service must remain up to date with the technologies that the public – and thus our patients – are using.
“The new free NHS app that is being rolled out to patients represents a significant and constructive step forward in the way care is managed and is intended to offer a range of services including more streamlined booking of GP appointments, ordering prescriptions, and recording organ donor preferences – and a way of updating patients registration details at their GP practice.
“Some practices already offer many online services and many have steps in place to adopt new technology but GPs and our team are working flat out to meet patient demand and it is vital that all GP surgeries are provided with the additional support and the resources they need to ensure it is introduced as seamlessly as possible without disruptions to patients or practices.
“Adequate safeguards must be in place to ensure the utmost protection of patients’ personal data, and considering that patient’s medical history will be accessible on individual’s mobile phones on the apps, we need to ensure that the security and reliability of the identity verification processes being used are of the highest international security standards.
“It is likely that smartphone savvy patients will embrace booking their GP appointments via this app – rather than calling their GP surgery- but it is important that patients who do not have a smartphone can continue to make bookings via phone or in person.
“As with any scheme it must also be rigorously independently evaluated to ensure it is safe and cost-effective for the NHS and that is beneficial to both patients and practices and that it does not add a further burden of workload pressures to already overstretched GPs and their teams.”