Tara Donnelly, interim chief digital officer at NHSX, told GPonline that the vast majority (96%) of patients in England will be able to book medical appointments, view their healthcare record and order repeat prescriptions online via the NHS app by next month.
However, NHS England confirmed that a small number of GP IT service providers have ‘more work to do’ before they can get the app up and running and therefore the full rollout deadline of 1 July would not be met.
It is currently estimated that around 85% of patients across England can use the NHS app to connect to their GP practice, and all practices using EMIS and TPP clinical systems (around 95% of practices serving 95.6% of the population) are on course to be connected by 1 July.
But those registered at GP practices using Vision and Microtest will not be connected by the start of next month. An NHS spokesperson told GPonline: ‘These two suppliers need to carry out some further work in their systems before we can connect the app in those practices, and our team is supporting them in making the changes that are required.’
‘Patient experience is paramount, it is therefore important that we take the time necessary to give patients access to all of the core functions of the app, and the same high level of performance that they would rightly expect,’ the spokesperson added. ‘Patients at Vision and Microtest practices can still download the NHS App and use it to check their symptoms and find out what to do when they need help urgently using NHS 111 online.’
Work is also ongoing to enable online service providers to connect to the NHS app, although NHS England has said the rollout of GP video consultations via the app is ‘separate’ to the initial July rollout and is still ‘at quite an early stage’.
In February, Labour health spokesperson in the Lords Baroness Thornton told peers that a leaked NHS Digital briefing had revealed that 32 online consultation suppliers were unable to connect to the NHS app.
Babylon GP at Hand - which now serves more than 50,000 patients - was among the organisations unable to connect to the NHS app at the time, and a spokesperson for the private healthcare organisation has confirmed to GPonline that the problem is yet to be resolved.
Dr Farah Jameel, GPC executive team lead for IT, previously told GPonline that the timeline to have the app in all practices by 1 July was ‘ambitious’.
‘Should it slip past that date, what is important that it is rolled out responsibly, and that it is safe for practices and patients,’ she said.
She added: ‘This is an app with great potential, offering convenience to patients, while hopefully cutting workload for practices. The current features, including prescription requests and appointment booking are all a step in the right direction as we seek to improve the digital offering from general practice. We hope that it will expand to include additional functionality in the future so that it can become a reliable, safe and secure digital front door to the NHS for every patient.’
Once a GP practice is fully connected with the NHS app, registered patients can use the service to book and manage appointments at their GP practice, order repeat prescriptions, view their medical record, register as an organ donor and choose whether the NHS can use their data for research and planning.