At launch, its most basic functions allowed people to check symptoms using a health A to Z and use the NHS 111 online service. Other functions are being activated on an area-by-area basis. As GP practices across the country get connected, patients will see new services: the ability to book and manage GP appointments through the app, order repeat prescriptions, view their records, register as organ donors and change their data-sharing preferences.
We will continue to develop the NHS App to create a secure, easy and consistent way for people to access the NHS digitally.
The NHS App was the first major platform to use the NHS login service, which provides a simple, unified method for individuals to sign on and access multiple digital health and social care services. It removes burdens on people accessing online tools and reduces the costs incurred by organisations in delivering identity verification and authentication.
We’ve engaged with more than 100 health and social care organisations and published a self-service process to help partners who wish to integrate with the service. Five partner services were being piloted by the end of 2018-19, including an online triage and consultation tool for NHS GPs and a project in Leeds to allow patients to update their own medical records.
In 2019-20, we will be developing automated identity verification checks to increase the capacity of the service, introducing proxy access to allow patients to nominate their carers to manage their care online, and exploring new ways of verifying identity including fingerprint and face recognition.
In June 2018, we published a set of standards for identity verification and authentication across health and social care. These standards provide a consistent approach to identity and describe why and how a person should prove their identity to access digital health and care services. They will support interoperability between services and ensure safety and reliability.
The NHS website (NHS.UK) exists to improve health outcomes, improve people’s health, care and well-being, reduce pressures on the frontline and make the system more efficient. It is the UK’s biggest health website, with an average of 46 million UK visits per month through 2018-19. It achieved a satisfaction rate of about 80% over the same period.
We removed the ‘NHS Choices’ name and logo in 2018, so it’s now simply ‘the NHS website’. We created a refreshed mobile-first homepage design with much easier navigation, introduced a new content management system and published a digital service manual setting out user-centred standards for service and visual design. We now have a modern platform capable of reaching more people with better information, advice and tools to help them manage their health and care. We have also lowered the reading age needed to understand our articles.
We have also improved the ‘findability’ of NHS content and have connected to more young people through our social media campaigns. Our partnerships ensure that we reach more people. We have 1,300 partners signed up to our syndication offer, with audiences conservatively estimated at about five million a month.
We will lead on more campaigns throughout 2019-20 and make it even easier for people to find the information they need to look after themselves and those they care for.
There are now more than 70 approved apps on the NHS Apps Library. We are working with more than 105 developers and have over 119 apps in review, providing information and support on topics from diabetes management to helping teenagers cope with mental health issues.
In June 2018, we published updated guidance to developers explaining their responsibilities under the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). All apps on the NHS Apps Library were assessed for compliance with the new regulations and 56 of the 70 were approved.
Fourteen apps have been required to take immediate action to address GDPR issues. Ten apps have been removed because they were unable to satisfy the assessors.
To increase the number of trusted apps available to the public and our health and care partners, we developed a framework to allow the recruitment of third-party organisations as approved assessors of apps and invited six to join the process in May 2019.
Much of the work of Citizen Health Technology is about enabling clinicians and members of the public to work together. This changes the balance of the relationship between clinician and patient and creates opportunities for completely redesigning services.
Our Personal Health Records programme is at the heart of that work and is working closely with local areas to ensure innovation at the grass roots is joined up and supporting overall NHS improvement. In May 2018, we published NHS-wide standards and guidance for personal health record access.
We distributed a toolkit to help local organisations align with national process and worked directly with key areas to ensure they were connected seamlessly with services like the NHS login, NHS App, and the NHS Apps Library.
The National Data Opt-out Service also puts individuals in control. It was successfully launched on 25 May 2018, giving people a clear choice about how their confidential patient information is used for research and planning by the health and care system.
They can simply state their choice once on-line or through our contact centre and are then able to change their minds whenever they wish. By giving people more information and more control, we expect to increase trust in the use of data to improve treatment and the effectiveness of services.
The NHS Long Term Plan relies heavily on the use of digital technologies to empower patients and change traditional models of care, but it also stresses the importance of ensuring everybody is able to access this in the future “from the most digitally literate to the most technologically averse.”
Since March 2017, our Widening Digital Participation programme has supported over 167,000 people from excluded communities to access and use digital health tools and services. This year we delivered six digital inclusion pathfinder projects to develop and test new ways to support homeless people in Hastings, older people in care homes in Portsmouth and people with sensory impairments in West Yorkshire.
In May 2018, we also published the Digital Inclusion Guide for Health and Care to help commissioners and digital teams across the NHS ensure their digital services and products are inclusive and accessible to everyone.
Next year, we will deliver a further six pathfinder projects to help people with dementia in Leeds, those living with cancer in Nottingham and to improve the digital skills of nurses in Cumbria. By March 2020, we hope to have supported 280,000 people from deprived communities to access and benefit from digital health technology.