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GP appointments via app for every patient by 2018

Every patient will be able to book a GP appointment, check their patient record, and receive support for managing their long conditions via an app by the end of next year, the health secretary is set to announce. 

Speaking at the NHS Expo conference in Manchester on Tuesday,Jeremy Hunt is expected to announce seven digital milestones to be achieved in 2018 – in time for the NHS’s 70th birthday.

These developments depend on the new and rebranded NHS Choices site, NHS UK, which is due to launch this month and will provide secure access to NHS features online or via connected apps.

As well as functions to interact with their GP it will also allow patients to register their organ donation preferences and set out who they want their data to be shared with for purposes other than their direct care.

The list of seven features that should be supported in patient apps are:

  • Access NHS 111;
  • Access their healthcare record;
  • Book a GP appointment;
  • Order repeat prescriptions;
  • Express their organ donation references;
  • Express their data sharing preferences; and
  • Access support for managing a long term condition

The health secretary is expected to say if the NHS can achieve these improvements to digital care it will become a ‘world beater’.

He will add: ‘People should be able to access their own medical records 24/7, show their full medical history to anyone they choose and book basic services like GP appointments or repeat prescriptions online.

‘I do not underestimate the challenge of getting there – but if we do it will be the best possible 70th birthday present from the NHS to its patients.’

But responding to this announcement, the BMA’s GP Committee chair Dr Richard Vautrey said technology wouldn’t address the problems caused by a lack of trained GPs.

He said: ‘New technologies that are created with the intention of improving access won’t solve the fundamental problem that there are simply not enough GP and nurse appointments available for patients, as there are not enough GPs and nurses available to offer them or meet the growing needs of our patients.’

Dr Vautrey added that GPs led the way on electronic records and are always looking for ways to innovate and support patients, but patients needed to be well supported on how to use these new systems safely.

Apps with some of these features are being piloted in parts of London already, and the DH has plans for more though it said it wasn’t able to share any more details at this stage.

These initiatives are funded from the £4.2bn tranche of the NHS budget which was ringfenced for IT improvements last year, which is also funding the ‘paperless NHS’ drive, cybersecurity improvements, and free WiFi in every practice.