NHS Apps Library promotes private online GP services

The NHS Apps Library, which was launched in April last year by NHS England and NHS Digital to provide the public with links to apps 'people can trust', has highlighted two private GP services in its listings.

The apps for Now GP and Babylon both appear on the website, which says it helps people to ‘find digital tools to help you manage and improve your health’. GPC chair Dr Richard Vautrey said that the library was ‘fundamentally flawed’ if it was directing patients to private providers.

The app for Now GP appears in the ‘healthy living’ section of the library, while the Babylon app appears under ‘other’.

Both services charge patients for accessing GP appointments remotely. Now GP connects its users with GPs via video calls, with prices starting from £7.99 a month or £42.50 for a one-off consultation. Babylon allows its users to arrange a video or phone consultation with a GP ‘within minutes’ and payment plans start at £5 a month for a minimum of three months or £25 per consultation.

The NHS Apps Library is currently a Beta site, which means it is an early version that is still being tested. NHS Digital is asking users to provide feedback. The site says that it contains a ‘selection of tools that have gone through a technical assessment; this seeks clarification from developers and vendors regarding compliance with the Data Protection Act, through to collecting personal data and other key areas.’

Some of the apps featured in the library are labelled ‘NHS Approved’ or ‘Being Tested in the NHS’, which means further assessment has been undertaken. The Now GP and Babylon apps have not been given these labels.

'Fundamentally flawed'

GPC chair Dr Richard Vautrey said: ‘It is becoming increasingly difficult for patients to know whether the multitude of health-related apps and AI products are appropriate or safe to use. We have robust systems in place to do this for new medicines but we currently not doing enough to respond to this rapidly changing scene.

‘This NHS library may help but will be fundamentally flawed if it is also directing NHS patients to private providers.’

Juliet Bauer, chief digital officer at NHS England, said: ‘There are a myriad of health related digital apps available, some free and some paid for, but there is no clear guidance for patients on which apps they should use or how safe they are.

‘As we enter the NHS’s 70th year, the NHS Apps Library addresses this problem by providing the public with a trusted location where they can quickly discover which health apps, commercial or otherwise, have met NHS standards.’

Last week NHS England and NHS Digital said they were ‘enhancing the Apps Library to make it the go-to place for patients to access safe and effective digital tools’. Developers have been invited to submit their apps for inclusion in the library and company Our Mobile Health has been appointed to work alongside NHS Digital to assess these.

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