With so many locations and staff across the country, plus an increase in patients, centralising information and promoting access to it has long been an objective for the NHS. NHSX was established, a new joint unit “to take forward digital transformation in the NHS, allowing patients and staff to benefit from the latest digital systems and technology”.
NHSX has ambitious aims, including the creation of the most advanced health and care service in the world. They aim to free up staff time, diagnose diseases earlier, and allow patients to take greater control of their own healthcare.
It was identified that much of the NHS relies on systems that pre-date the technology that is now available. Data does not follow people around the NHS system which meant that patients were not necessarily getting the care that they needed. Therefore, one of the projects of NHSX was the NHS app, billed as: “a simple and secure way for people to access a range of NHS services on their smartphone or tablet”.
The plan was for patients to be able to check their symptoms, as well as registering as an organ donor, making GP appointments and ordering repeat prescriptions via the app, if the GP practice was connected to it. All GP practices are due to be connected by 1st July 2019. About two thirds are already connected.
The app research pilot in December 2018 showed promise. iI was reported as being well-received from the first time patients downloaded the app, and was rated as having a high standard of accessibility.
Matthew Gould is shortly due to take up office as CEO of NHSX. He published his first blog on 31st May 2019, dealing with his thoughts on the NHS App. He stated that whilst the app was functional and popular, it was not going to be ‘all singing, all dancing’, instead keeping it simple and allowing external sources innovate on top of it to ensure a continuing evaluation of products. He believes this will mean those products will respond faster to the users’ needs than the NHS app could, and allows for the talent and creativity in the health-tech sector to be put to good use. That said, he is keen to keep settings like data preferences to be actioned through the NHS app rather than outsourcing.
Health Secretary Matt Hancock said: “This is just the beginning of the tech revolution, building on our long term plan to create a predictive, preventative and unrivalled NHS”.