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Hunt: Patients to register with GPs and receive health advice through app

Patients will be able to register with GPs and get medical advice through a smartphone app by the end of next year, under radical new plans being announced by the health secretary later today.

Jeremy Hunt will announce later today at Health and Care Innovation Expo in Manchester a ‘multimillion pound package’ to expand digital services, including a new online triage service for NHS 111.

There will also be a new ‘transparency drive’ that will provide information on local quality of services for cancer, dementia, diabetes, mental health, learning disabilities and maternity care, he will say.

But the GPC has warned that a ‘symptom checker’ is no replacement for a GP consultation.

There are few details about how the app will work as yet, but a Department of Health statement said: ‘Patients will soon be able to register with a GP, access healthcare records and get medical advice via their tablet or smartphone all in one place.

‘The new services, which will become available from the end of next year, are intended to make the NHS easier to use for the increasing numbers of people using smartphones and other mobile devices to access public services.’

The DH says that the new NHS 111 online triage service will ‘enable patients to enter their symptoms online and get tailored advice or a call-back from a healthcare professional according to their needs’.

Under the plans, NHS Choices will be renamed, and will allow patients to register with a GP, see and book appointments, and order and track prescriptions all in one place.

Mr Hunt said: ‘We live in the age of the smartphone, and we want the NHS to reflect that. Our new plans will make it easier for patients to get medical support and information they need, and should encourage more of us to use the growing range of online NHS services available.

‘This is a way of supplementing patients seeing their doctor in a more conventional, face-to-face setting, and crucially it will give people more choice and the opportunity to access healthcare in a way that works for them.

Dr Brian Balmer, GPC negotiator, said: ’any new technology that improves patient care and access is of course to be to be welcomed, especially if it makes booking appointments easier for GPs and patients. But this should not replace direct access to a GP who patients should see if they have health concerns.

‘The proposed symptom checker is not the same as a consultation with a GP and should not be considered as such. In addition, the scale of the funds being committed to this project is questionable given that GP practices across the country are struggling badly, with more than 300 telling the BMA recently they are facing closure. This is what ministers should be working to put right as a priority.’

Readers' comments (46)

  • We all know that this will be a disaster. How about giving patients what they need. Referral to treatment time breached in 80% of referrals at our local trust. 2 partners are leaving for Australia. My F2 reports increases in rota gaps. Patients dont need Apps they need services.

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  • Another cuckoo idea from a barely virtual Minister. Apps are fine to play with and do things online but actual services needed are real.... and soon there will be very little left of these.

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  • And who will be giving this "tailored advice"? Just imagine the volume of requests that this populist innovation will unleash. Anyone who sneezed more than once in the last hour, a bit late to the toilet when usually it's 6 am sharp, my children are not eating their greens and all that sort of nonsense that GB public feel so entitled to enquire about if it's free to ask. Now it will also become easy. This will cause many problems and stress we don't need any more of in primary care.

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  • How about somebody coming with an app which will automatically gather information given by patient and then telling them to either make face to face appointment with GP or nurse or attend A&E.
    Simple problem solved.

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  • I think he's talking about incorporating GPs into Pokemon Go, since GPs will soon be as rare as the mythical Lickitung, Koffing and Bulbasaur.

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  • It's about a multimillion packet contract for buddies, it's not about apps or patient care but the after-life this minister expects to have when he loses his job - that's bound to happen as Theresa May can't be that blind.

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  • Old people need more care . Old people don't use apps - only the worried well.

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  • Vinci Ho

    GPs will become legendary Pokemon on GO:
    Cannot be found instead.
    The packet also includes developing Robodoc eventually . This is to replace all expensive human GPs . Well done , Agent Hunt. This message will self destruct in 5 seconds.

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  • Great work Jeremy, you have clearly (not) learned from the follies of previous governments, when it comes to big NHS IT vanity projects. 6:26am nails it - patients don't need gimmicks and apps - they need services that work. This reeks of pandering to the worried well, not to the vulnerable elderly patients who need our services most. The problem with all apps like this is that they soon realise they can't diagnose all sick patients with 100% sensitivity, so they end up covering their backsides by advising everyone to see a GP just in case. This clogs up services and the result is overwhelming inundation of patients, with the most vulnerable and needy left at the back of the queue.

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  • Dear All,
    Well if there aren't going to be any GPs around isn't this the alternative?
    Paul C

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