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.’