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GPs go forth

Patients to book GP appointments through new app by end of 2018

Patients will be able to book GP appointments using a new NHS app from the end of this year, the health secretary has said.

Jeremy Hunt said the app, which was first announced at NHS Expo last year, will ‘mark the death-knell of the 8am scramble for GP appointments’.

The app will also allow patients to order repeat prescriptions, access NHS 111 online, set their organ donation preferences and data-sharing preferences.

However, GP leaders stressed the need for GPs to be given additional support and resources ‘to ensure it is introduced as seamlessly as possible without disruptions to patients or practices’.

The app, which has been developed by NHS Digital and NHS England, will allow patients to access their GP record, book an appointment, order repeat prescriptions, manage long-term conditions and access NHS 111 online.

The app will also enable patients to manage their data sharing, organ donation and end-of-life care preferences and will be available for everyone to download in December, following a testing phase from September this year. 

Mr Hunt said:The NHS app is a world-first which will put patients firmly in the driving seat and revolutionise the way we access health services.

‘I want this innovation to mark the death-knell of the 8am scramble for GP appointments that infuriates so many patients. 

‘Technology has transformed everyday life when it comes to banking, travel and shopping. Health matters much more to all of us, and the prize of that same digital revolution in healthcare isn’t just convenience but lives improved, extended and saved. 

‘As the NHS turns 70 and we draw up a long-term plan for the NHS on the back of our £394m a week funding boost, it’s time to catch up and unleash the power of technology to transform everyday life for patients.’ 

Last month, the Prime Minister announced an extra £20bn for the NHS, with the health secretary saying that some of the money should be earmarked for primary care.

Matthew Swindells, national director of operations and information at NHS England, said: 'The new app will put the NHS into the pocket of everyone in England but it is just one step on the journey, we are also developing an NHS Apps Library and putting free NHS wifi in GP surgeries and hospitals.'

RCGP chair Professor Helen Stokes-Lampard said that the app is ‘a significant and constructive step forward in the way care is managed’. 

She added: ‘Some practices already offer many online services and many have steps in place to adopt new technology but GPs and our team are working flat out to meet patient demand and it is vital that all GP surgeries are provided with the additional support and the resources they need to ensure it is introduced as seamlessly as possible without disruptions to patients or practices.

‘Adequate safeguards must be in place to ensure the utmost protection of patients’ personal data, and considering that patient’s medical history will be accessible on individual’s mobile phones on the apps, we need to ensure that the security and reliability of the identity verification processes being used are of the highest international security standards.'

NHS England recently launched a national data opt-out scheme, which will invite patients to opt-out of GP record sharing for research purposes from June.

Readers' comments (21)

  • huh? We've been using this for months (3 different ones, I'm told). And if you think it makes a blind bit of difference for urgent opinions, well....

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  • National Hopeless Service

    8am app scramble for the 1000 less GPs instead.

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  • Window dressing. Is he not aware we already have on-line appointment systems? If only some attention were paid to fixing the basics. No matter how many new toys are introduced, access won't improve unless workload is reduced and staffing increased. An additional way of being told there are no appointments left will not help.

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  • And how will this integrate with the ability of receptionists to manage the few remaining slots that day so that the truly important cases take priority over the minor stuff?
    If it won't, all I can see here is a faster route to chaos.

    Yes, there is a role for on-line appointments, but no, there is no role for an app through which ALL appointments have to be made, which I suspect may be the next part of The Plan.

    And I agree with all the above comments: on-line appointments are already widely available, so what's the fuss? And do they empower those not on the internet? Clearly not.
    It would be nice to feel that our lords and masters have at least a basic understanding of the more subtle aspects of medical life they are trying to control but sadly, this present announcement doesn't fill me with confidence.

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  • Nhsfatcat

    Reminds self to set up UberGP. Some people value a GP apt so poorly and allowing an app to use our appointments up is not a step forward. If we could cope with demand we'd abolish appointment systems. We will need to restrict the amount of appts available via app. The promise of champagne medicine with lemonade funding.

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  • Vinci Ho

    As expected
    But there is a political meaning of justifying the existence of a GP app on smartphone Agent Hunt has been pushing , especially in face of GP at hand’s ruthless marketing.
    The narrative he wants is NHS is moving forward and embracing 21st century technology with these smartphone apps though , as commented above, on-line appointment booking and prescription request are already available.
    The fuss is GP smartphone apps will expand in NHS , whether one likes it or not . The question is how much more a GP app will deliver NHS . AI-algorithm driven medicine is an underlying agenda . Happy days to all these technology firms , so called FAANG(Facebook , Apple , Amazon , Netflix and Google).
    The issues of security, big-data misuse , smartphone addiction etc all remain. I am sure a post Brexit (past the official day ) prime minister will want to keep dancing with these firms , especially if there is a ‘No Deal’ , back to WTO rules , by default.
    Watch out China’s ‘wonderful’ Social Credit System to profile the whole population into at least , 10 categories.

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  • It doesn’t sound a lot different to Emis’s Patient Access app which has been available for years.

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  • No doubt they will chnage the contract to ensure we must use I doubt that

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  • Good news for the internet-savvy worried well youngsters living within M25, I wonder how things will fare for the very elderly folks with complex morbidity who really need to see a GP.

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  • Bornjovial

    Today I have been told
    "There is a national problem with Patient Access in that it is very slow and patients struggling to access it today. Being investigated"
    The app would be single point of failure for primary care for the entire country and single point of infrastructure attack for any hostile entity which wishes to cause chaos in England.

    20% of our patients are booking their appointments online and this will increase with time. However there are several access points such as telephone, a visit to the surgery as alternates to book appointments.
    There are positive sides to this as well as there is standardization of access to practices, albeit for digitally enabled citizens.
    As with anything new, it does not flatten the playing field but creates new winners (app developers, IT staff, more control of primary care by NHS) and new losers (GP surgeries, elderly patients).

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