NHS England has announced that the NHS app is now available through the Apple App Store and Google Play, after a trial with more than 3,000 patients at 30 practices.
GP practices will need to 'review some of their system settings before they can go live' to enable patients to access the app's full range of functions. NHS leaders have said that 'most practices' will go live between April and June this year and that the app is 'expected to be fully rolled out to practices and patients by 1 July 2019'.
The app will allow patients to book and manage appointments, order repeat prescriptions, view medical records, consult NHS 111, register as an organ donor and choose whether the NHS uses their data for research and planning, NHS England has said.
All patients can download the app now, but will need to check whether their GP practice is available when they open the app for the first time. NHS England says that patients whose practice is not currently live 'can choose to leave an email address and be notified when their practice goes live'.
In the meantime the app can be used to check symptoms via 111 online and the 'health A-Z' on the NHS website.
NHS England deputy chief executive Matthew Swindells said the app would 'put the NHS into the pocket of everyone in England'.
'We see the app as the digital front door into the NHS, for those who want to use it, and once rolled out we will continue to develop and enhance its offer to patients, making it the must have health app for everyone in England.'
Health secretary Matt Hancock said the app's rollout 'marks a shift towards a truly digitised NHS'.
RCGP chair Professor Helen Stokes-Lampard said: 'Technology plays an increasingly important role in the NHS and in our patients’ lives.
'The new NHS app promises to be a significant and constructive step forward in using technology to support patients to manage their own care and wellbeing. We hope it will make navigating primary care services easier for patients.'
The RCGP called for safeguards 'to ensure the utmost protection of patients’ personal data, especially as people’s confidential medical records will now be accessible via their mobile phones'.
The government originally pledged that the app would be available to all patients in England from December 2018. It was first available as an app on 31 December, although without any functions linked to the vast majority of GP practices.
The government promised last month in the NHS long-term plan to give all patients the right to access digital GP consultations within the next five years.
GPC chair Dr Richard Vautrey said: 'As the NHS app has now been launched it is now something that can be properly tested, assessed and developed in real time. As this happens more patients and practices will be able to use it. As with any digital initiative, if it is useful it should sell itself and people will use it.'