Patients in England will be able to order repeat prescriptions, access their own medical records and book an appointment with their GP via an NHS smart phone app by the end of next year, according to health secretary Jeremy Hunt.
The integrated app will also allow them to get in touch with the non-emergency medical advice service NHS 111, as well as log their personal decisions about data sharing and organ donation.
Hunt is due to give more details about the app and the progress of pilot projects set up to test it, in a keynote speech to NHS England’s health and care innovation expo event in Manchester on 12 September 2017.
He is expected to tell delegates: “If the NHS is going to be the safest, highest quality healthcare system in the world we need to do technology better.
“People should be able to access their own medical records 24/7, show their full medical history to anyone they choose and book basic services like GP appointments or repeat prescriptions online.
“I do not underestimate the challenge of getting there – but if we do, it will be the best possible 70th birthday present from the NHS to its patients.”
The NHS patient app is part of the £4.2bn personalised health and care 2020 programme outlined by Hunt last year.
If the ongoing pilots are a success, the intention is that they will be rolled out nationally.
The government hopes that other apps that can support people with long-term conditions which are also being piloted – such as MyCOPD – will also become universally available to patients.
Hunt is also due to reveal at the expo event the progress made on the recommendations of the Professor Robert Wachter’s report, ‘Making IT work: Harnessing the power of health information technology to improve care in England’, which was published last year.
The health secretary is also expected to launch MyNHS open data challenge, backed by a £100,000 fund, which will reward the most creative and innovative apps and digital tools making best use of open data to help improve services.
Commenting on the new NHS patient smart phone app, chair of the Royal College of General Practitioners (RCGP) Professor Helen Stokes-Lampard said: “Technology can be hugely beneficial for healthcare professionals and patients when used effectively – but new technological initiatives don’t suit all patients, and we must be cautious not to alienate vulnerable patients who are perhaps elderly, poor or simply not as tech-savvy.”
She added: “We also need to dispel the myth that just because we are using technology to do something, we are also saving resources.”
Meanwhile, the Department of Health is also due to announce on Tuesday details of a public consultation about the Care Quality Commission inspection regime and digital doctor services.
That move was welcomed by Stokes-Lampard who said the RCGP has “long raised patient safety concerns around services that offer GP virtual consultations for a fee, without necessarily having access to the patient’s full medical – and medication – history.”