Every patient in England will have access to NHS 111 online via the NHS App from the end of this year.
The news, unveiled today at the Health and Care Innovation Expo, comes as NHS England has previously claimed its online 111 technology reduces the number of patients referred to a GP by a fifth when compared with telephone triage.
Patients in the pilot areas – Liverpool, Hastings, Bristol, Staffordshire and South Worcestershire – will be able to download the app from 30 September.
They will be able use it to book appointments, check their symptoms, order repeat prescriptions, access 111 online for urgent medical queries, and state their preferences for organ donation and data sharing.
Meanwhile, NHS England plans for all patients in England to be able to download the app from the end of December, with access to limited features.
Speaking at today’s conference, NHS England online digital delivery lead Pip Hodgson said this would include the NHS 111 symptom checker.
She said: ‘When you do download the app and [the full version is] not available in your area, you’ll still be able to have access to 111 online and NHS.uk information.
‘We wouldn’t want to detract people from promoting self-care or to help themselves to know where to go in the system so it’s really important that we got that in there.’
Four NHS 111 online pilots were launched at the beginning of this year covering Suffolk (Expert24), Leeds (Pathways), north London (Babylon) and the West Midlands (Sense.ly).
Pulse has asked NHS Digital which of the systems will be used within the NHS App.
Explaining the reasoning behind the phased rollout of the NHS App, Ms Hodgson said NHS England wants to ‘make sure we don’t overload the systems’ and ‘make sure we can fully support the areas in which it is going live [in full]’.
The work towards an NHS App was first announced by former health secretary Jeremy Hunt at last year’s Health and Care Innovation Expo. At the time, he said that ensuring every patient had access to NHS 111 via an app as a ‘digital milestone’ for 2018.
Pulse reported last month that a later update to the app, expected early next year, will allow patients to connect their Apple Watch or FitBit to the app as well as consult with their GP over video.
Also speaking about the NHS App at the Health and Care Innovation Expo, health secretary Matt Hancock said: ‘Patients who want to will feel the benefits of being able to access services through their fingertips, rather than needing to pick up the phone or physically walk into a GP surgery. It is a big step in making the NHS resemble the rest of the modern world around us.
‘I love the fact the NHS is doing this. I want to support anyone in the NHS developing new technology that can improve care.’