NHSX chief explains approach to NHS app

The CEO of NHSX Matthew Gould has said he doesn’t want to make the NHS app ‘all-singing and all-dancing’.

In his first blog in the role, Gould spoke about the role of the NHS app, saying he wanted to keep it thin and let others use the platform to come up with ‘brilliant features’ on top of what has been created.

Gould outlined three principles to guide NHSX’s approach, saying:

  • “There will always be some functions that are appropriate for the NHS to do itself and that citizens will expect of us – for example, it’s probably right that things like their data preferences should be set through the NHS’s own app, rather than an alternative;
  • There will be some things that it makes sense for the NHS to build or commission itself, like platforms that can serve common features across the system. For example, we are looking at how both booking and screening can be underpinned by single approaches rather than a myriad of separate ones;
  • The systems and innovation will only work if they are properly tied in to the wider NHS. One of the early complaints about the NHS App is that its online booking function only gives access to a small number of GP appointment slots. This isn’t just a digital issue and reinforces my determination that NHSX should work in a thoroughly integrated way with the rest of the system, not as a tech ivory tower. So on this issue, the new GP contract will require GPs to make at least 25% of their appointments available online.”

Gould praised the work done by the developers of the app to get patient data to move safely from GP systems to smartphones, and welcomed that over two-thirds of GP surgeries have connected to the app, with the aim of 100% by July.

Explaining the reasons to not make the app ‘all singing and all dancing’, Gould cited the desire to create a platform and let others innovate from there, being able to ‘harness the extraordinary talent and creativity that exists both in the NHS and in the healthtech sector.’

He said: “We will expose the APIs, so that other people can develop their own apps to meet their own user need — apps that can plug in, safely let people access their own data and deliver a different user journey.

“We know that many of our patients want to interact with the NHS in different ways. We can imagine apps that are tailored around a particular long term condition, for example, or that help the user to book an appointment when their glucose levels are off. I want an innovator who can imagine a better experience to manage their diabetes to be able to build that experience, using our APIs.

“We also know that the best APIs are those we use ourselves, so we can feel the challenges and maintain our commitment to keep improving them. I hate the phrase, but we will be eating our own dog food, using our thin app to help innovators see how to use the APIs and seeding the ecosystem we hope to build.”

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