NHS app could see video consultations as soon as next year

Jeremy Hunt first announced the app last year and it is expected to be piloted next month. 

The NHS Online app could allow video consultations with patients as soon as next year.

The NHS Online app is designed to allow patients to book appointments, check symptoms, order repeat prescriptions, access 111 online and state their preferences for organ donation and data sharing.

Plans also include patients to be allowed safe and secure access to their own GP record.

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Jeremy Hunt first announced the app last year and it is expected to be piloted next month.

A freedom of information act (FOIA) request from tech magazine Gizmodo to NHS Digital, reveals that a planned update to the app next year could enable healthcare professionals to hold video consultations with their patients and the use of biometric information via a 'FitBit' style accessory.

The new Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, Matt Hancock, said it was his priority to bring the NHS into the 21st century, saying we should use the “best of modern technology”  to make “life easier for staff". The NHS Online project will draw from his previous experience as the Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media, and Sport.

The app should not compromise safety.

Dr Andrew Green, Lead for the GP Prescribing Committee, said: "All of our lives have been revolutionised by digital processes over recent years, and it would be naïve to imagine general practice would be unaffected.

"The challenge will be to ensure that new ways to access GP care do not compromise safety, do not prioritise the needs of the well over those of the sick, and do not increase demand in non-commercial systems where increased footfall consumes resources rather than generates income."

Matthew Swindells, NHS England's National Director of Operations and Information, said: "In the NHS’s 70th year, the new app will take the NHS to a world-leading position by empowering all our patients using digital technology to take charge of their own healthcare and contact the NHS in a way that suits them.

"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."

NHS Digital has confirmed that only services that use the EMIS computer system will participate in the pilot.

Critics have questioned the safety of video consultations.

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