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.