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Hunt’s GP smartphone app to ‘strengthen’ patient relationships, says public health chief

Allowing patients to access their medical record and book GP appointments through phone apps will help them build stronger relationships with their GPs, the Government’s lead on NHS information at Public Health England has said.

Professor John Newton, chief knowledge officer at Public Health England (PHE) and interim chair of the National Information Board, told Pulse ‘being able to transact with general practice using smartphones is definitely the way forward’ and this would ‘strengthen the bond’ between patients and GPs.

It comes after Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt announced a new multimillion pound package to expand digital health services, with the promise that people will soon be able to register with a GP, access their GP record and receive medical advice through smartphone apps.

GPC leads warned health apps should not be seen as a substitute for traditional care delivered by GPs.

However, speaking to Pulse at PHE’s annual conference, Professor Newton said the apps were ‘not intended to replace face-to-face contact, but provide another avenue for those who want to use it’.

He stressed the unique relationship between GPs and their registered patient list should remain the cornerstone of the NHS, and that use of digital technology would ‘strengthen that bond – it reduces the distance between the patient and the practice’.

Professor Newton insisted this should not increase the demand placed on general practice.

He said: ‘Obviously it has the potential to increase [healthcare] use, but if you buy into this model of a responsible concordat based on registration it shouldn’t do that.

‘The duty on patients to use the NHS responsibly is much more apparent at the general practice level, whereas it is more difficult to develop that relationship with a faceless secondary care service’.