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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 nhs.uk, 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)

  • I am sure he is right about young people wanting to use apps etc. But first the basic problems need to be fixed. This sort of thing will be great in the private sector where you generate income the more people use it.

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  • Presumably Hunt is talking about a national procurement of eConsult, it's a good product but not one that replaces Dr's

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  • Vinci Ho

    On a serious tone , I think I said this before: the 21st Century version of Ignorance , one of the Five Giant Evils of William Beverige (Squalor , ignorance , idleness , want and disease ) is exactly the misinformation people obtaining in media and on Internet .Only those working on the frontline can really understand the impact of this new Ignorance.
    Fine , you are trying to establish something like an official channel for consultation and may be some 'products' are better than others.But we all know the real meaning of the art of consultation skill: it is a two way tickets , about shared decision(not just a rhetoric) as well as building a relationship .
    I am afraid an utilitarian like Agent Hunt will never understand .....

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  • What an absolute waste of precious money. What a total prat this man is. This is what he does..dreams up pretty ideas in the bath whilst all around him the NHS is burning.
    Words can not express how low my regard for this man is.

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  • All these problems in the NHS delayed payments, lost notes, strikes, CQC etc and the solution is an APP! The answer to funding crisis is to waste more money. Unbelievable.
    It may keep patients amused temporarily but they need to have real services. Maybe the app can teach DIY blood taking etc.

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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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  • e consult or e gp is not a good product.

    A friend in the new forest trialed the use of these tools. They found them useless, just another avenue for increasing work.

    The evaluation confirmed this so the response of the CCG who are pushing it : the wrong questions were asked and we're going to do it anyway!

    Unless GP's say no we allow these things to happen to us!

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  • This will be a significant stimulus to the income of lawyers- great idea really.

    Back to uni!!!

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  • "I call app Britain"

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