New app to open up healthcare access

EVERY patient in England will be able to access their full health record and book GP appointments via an app by the end of 2018 under ambitious new government plans.

Patients will also be able to access NHS 111, order repeat prescriptions and get help managing long term conditions, as well as saving preferences for organ donation and data sharing.

Speaking at the recent Health and Care Innovation Expo in Manchester, health secretary Jeremy Hunt said the next 10 years would be “the decade of patient power”. The planned improvements, he said, would make the NHS “a world-beater in the care of people with long-term conditions.”

Pilot schemes are already underway in some parts of the country to test out the new technology before a potential national roll-out as the NHS turns 70 in 2018.

Mr Hunt said: 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.”

 

To ensure so-called “digital doctors” are operating at the same standard as the rest of the NHS, the Department of Health has launched a consultation about expanding the number of providers included in the Care Quality Commission’s ratings system.

 

Imelda Redmond, National Director of Healthwatch England said: “The vision set out by the Secretary of State directly addresses what patients and the broader public have told Healthwatch they want from a modern NHS, and is a huge step forward in ensuring all of us get the sort of integrated service we have come to expect in many other areas of life.”

 

In his address to the Expo conference, the health secretary also announced:

  • the launch of MyNHS open data challenge - a £100,000 fund to reward the most creative apps and digital tools to improve services
  • an update on the acute and mental health global digital exemplars – organisations which deliver care through world-class use of digital technology and information flows
  • which trusts will form part of a further wave of exemplars – the ‘Fast Followers’ - which will receive £160 million funding
  • £21 million of new matched funding for up to seven mental health “Fast Followers” - creating fresh investment of up to £42 million.

Responding to the announcement, RCGP chair Professor Helen Stokes-Lampard said more than 97 per cent of GP practices offer online services, such as online appointment booking and medical records access.

"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 said.

She also urged the health secretary to ensure the proposed new app service is appropriately staffed “to ensure that the NHS is getting a quality service that represents real value for money.”