NHS app will not work across England by end of 2018, officials confirm

A government pledge to enable patients across England to book appointments, order repeat prescriptions and more via an NHS app by the end of this year will not be met, NHS England has confirmed.

NHS app (Photo: iStock.com/mihailomilovanovic)
NHS app (Photo: iStock.com/mihailomilovanovic)

In July, the DHSC said the NHS app ‘will be available to everyone in England in December 2018’ - and that it would allow patients to make GP appointments, order repeat prescriptions, manage long-term conditions and access 111 online for urgent medical queries.

The app was also intended to allow patients to set their preferences on organ donation, data sharing and end-of-life care - although end of life care has now been dropped.

But some patients could be waiting until at least March 2019 to have access to its full range of services.

NHS app rollout

The NHS app will be ‘publicly available in the App Store and Google Play store, as well as a desktop webpage’ by the end of the year, NHS England has confirmed, but a staged rollout over ‘several months’ means that that the ability to use the programme to make GP appointments, order repeat prescriptions or access 111 online will only be available to patients ‘one STP or one CCG at a time’.

Details of the rollout, such as where in the country it will start, are yet to be confirmed. A presentation by NHS England's chief digital officer earlier this year highlighted 'March 2019 onwards' as the timescale for national rollout and promotional campaigns for the NHS app.

GPonline reported earlier this year on a warning from the GPC that it would be impossible for GPs to offer appointments via the NHS app by December.

Speaking to GPonline about the latest proposed schedule, GPC chair Dr Richard Vautrey said a slower rollout may be wise: 'It’s important to do things right and learn from the pilot, use that learning to iterate the app and create a tool that is useful and benefits both patients and clinicians.

Useful tool

'If that takes longer to do but delivers something useful then it’s worth taking the time needed.'

He added that the GPC had been 'working with NHS England' on the app.

The app was launched across five pilot sites - Liverpool, Hastings, Bristol, Staffordshire and South Worcestershire - in October, and health and social care Matt Hancock told the NHS Expo 2018 that it would ‘be available nationally from the end of the year’.

A report by pharmaceutical company Roche unveiled earlier this year found that 85% of adults welcome the new NHS App, 89% are comfortable sharing their data with the NHS, and that 90% would be comfortable with the NHS 'analysing their health data for better diagnosis and personalised treatment'.

When plans for the app were first announced in July, former health and social care secretary Jeremy Hunt said it would ‘mark the death-knell of the 8am scramble for GP appointments that infuriates so many patients’.

NHS England denied the app's rollout was delayed and said it would be 'gradually rolled out across England from December'.

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