NHS app will end scramble to make GP appointments, Hunt says
An app that will mark the “death knell” of the early morning scramble to secure a GP appointment is being launched, Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt has announced.
Patients will be able to look at their records, order repeat prescriptions and access 111 online for urgent medical queries.
The app will also allow patients to address longer-term concerns such as setting out their end of life care and organ donation preferences.
Mr 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.”
Testing of the app, which will be available for patients in England, begins in September and it is expected to be ready to download from the App Store or Google Play in December.
Sarah Wilkinson, chief executive of NHS Digital, said: “We are working hard to deliver the Secretary of State’s vision for an NHS App which provides much easier access for individuals to key NHS services.
“I have no doubt that people will hugely welcome the ability to access self-help diagnostic tools, more easily book GP appointments, view test results and order repeat prescriptions, and tell us about their personal preferences with respect to organ donation, use of their data and other aspects of their care.
“We all know that demand for precious NHS services is escalating, and for a large portion of the population digital channels are a preferred means of access to data and services, so this is an opportunity to provide the easier access people want and relieve some burden from front-line providers.”
It comes as the NHS marks its 70th anniversary this week.
Matthew Swindells, NHS England national director of operations and information, said the app would allow patients to take charge of their own healthcare.
He added: “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.”
In an interview with Sky News, NHS England chief executive Simon Stevens said the additional funds allocated to the health service would be used “wisely”.
He said the money would be put towards improving cancer survival and “unaddressed areas” such as mental health services.
Meanwhile, he called for better protection for NHS workers.
“Too many of our paramedics, nurses, A&E doctors say they are on the receiving end of assaults and violence from the people they are trying to look after,” he said.
“I think it is time to say that if you beat up an ambulance crew you should expect to be prosecuted, and if there needs to be changes in the law to make that clearer to everybody, we should fully support them.”
On the new funding, Mr Stevens told the broadcaster: “We want to make sure that, as we put extra money in, it is used wisely.
“But looking out at cancer care for the next decade, if we can focus particularly on early diagnosis, getting checked out soon, we are going to have an impact on cancer survival.
“We want to keep short waits for A&E care and for planned surgery, but we want to make big improvements in cancer care and unaddressed areas such as in mental health services, and to do that we are going to need more staff.”