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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)

  • 2 partners leaving at the end of the month. As we are unable to replace them with anything resembling a qualified GP we are delighted that this is coming to a phone near you very soon.
    FFS they just don't get it do they GP land is in meltdown.

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  • as usual fiddling while rome burns
    pathetic tripe and a smokescreen pretending to be reforming the nhs and actually pandering to middle class me me me people
    looks good to the imbecilic blue sky deluded dreamers and bum polishers at NHSE because they are totally incompetent.

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  • This is the 95 year old philosopher Mary Midgley on such approaches:

    It is worth reading and is not long.

    Dr Peter J Gordon

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  • Welcome Dr Google!

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  • Ha Ha HA Mr Hunt please get your priorities right. Worry about the the sinking ship called NHS- deficits,strikes etc. All fidgety ways will not work. The deprived have significant issues with poverty as well health ,so do the elderly-will they use apps.

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  • Get the IT basics right first is what is required so might I suggest the Jeremy Hunt extracts his head from his derrière and do something appropriate.

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  • Have you ever tried entering your symptoms into symptom checker? I did recently and it diagnosed me with tularaemia.

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  • I asked my registrar to google the symptoms he felt at that moment which was abdominal bloating. The top ten causes that must not be missed were ovarian cancer endometrial cancer etc and was mainly in over 50 females. Nowhere did it say it does not affect men so he would have run straight to have his ovarian cancer excluded!! Apps are only as good as the user. Unless demand is curbed by co-payments the NHS is doomed. There is not enough central funding to attract the best people into working at any level in the NHS from cleaners to consultants. We allow Bankers to keep their wildly inappropriate bonuses so they don't leave the country why are we as a country allowing this destruction of the professions.

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  • If I want to access healthcare via an app I'll just use Tinder in the grounds of a hospital the way God intended.

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  • Offering advice whether it is via email, text, face to face or any other means is always onerous and time consuming. Actually any written advice would take longer because it needs to be 100% correct as it can be used as medical legal evidence.Does this mean that I can cut my surgery face to face consultation time, and therefore reduce my slots to give advice in some other form. I hope Mr Hunt does not think I can do this on top of what I'm already struggling with.

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