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Many online GP providers cannot connect to the NHS App

Many online GP providers are unable to connect with the NHS App, which could cause ‘confusion’ for patients, it has been warned.

In a leaked memo from NHS Digital, a survey of 32 online consultation suppliers – including Babylon and eConsult – showed many do not have the technology in place to link with the NHS app, according to reports by HSJ.

One online GP provider responding to the survey, Livi, raised concerns over suggestions that NHS patients would have to use a seperate app for online consultations, arguing this could ’cause user confusion’.

The new NHS App, which allows patients to book and manage GP appointments, view their medical record and order repeat prescriptions, was made available to all patients in England in January following a pilot with 30 practices across England. 

But while NHS England expects most GP practices to go live with the app between April and June this year, with full rollout to be completed by July, two of the digital providers taking part in the NHS Digital survey confirmed to Pulse they have been experiencing interoperability issues.

Private video consultation provider Babylon, which also runs the GP at Hand service for NHS patients, told Pulse it cannot connect to the app but is currently in discussions with the NHS about how to rectify the issue.

A Babylon spokesperson said: ‘Babylon are ready, willing and able to work with the NHS App team to ensure high quality digital services are available across the NHS, as envisaged by the NHS long-term plan.

‘This app needs to be able to work with large providers like ourselves, or smaller ones who are starting up, so that patients and GP practices have access to the digital-first services that work best for them.’

Online provider eConsult – a web-based triage service that currently serves nearly 20% of all GP practices in England – said the initial version of the app does not allow interoperability with other third-party services.

A spokesperson for eConsult said: ‘The initial intention for the NHS App was to connect directly with patients, and has been very successful in achieving this aim. The purpose and intentions of the first phase of the app rollout did not include the interoperability with other, third-party services such as eConsult.

‘It is the next reiteration of the NHS App that will include interoperability with third-party services, and eConsult has been working with the NHS closely on this. We currently have a proof of concept, and the next stage is to trial with patients. We are in a very good position, once the next stage of the NHS app is ready, to be integrated in offering eConsult triage through as planned,’ added the spokesperson.

According to NHS England, the survey carried out by NHS Digital was designed to look at what was available in the digital market and what might be needed in the future.

An NHS England spokesperson said: ‘The NHS App team at NHS England and NHS Digital are working with 32 companies to investigate the potential of online consultations in the NHS App.

’No final decisions have yet been made and the team are continuing to engage with the market to shape the future of online consultations for a better patient experience.’

NHS England chief digital officer Tara Donnelly said: ’There are many innovative digital products the app could link to, both today and in the future, and it is our role to set clear standards, explore how this can be achieved and once developed we are committed to publishing in the spirit of transparency and openness to the market.’

A recent survey revealed six in 10 GPs are concerned the NHS app will increase their workload rather than reduce it.

Meanwhile, researchers have warned that alternatives to face-to-face GP appointments are being implemented without a clear rationale, and the BMA has warned GP practices could ‘go under’ if inundated with e-consultations.