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Creating a new NHS England: NHS England and NHS Digital merged on 1 February 2023. More about the merger.

What we did in 2021-22

We create products and services that put people in control of their own care and help frontline professionals to deliver better services. In 2021-22, we continued to lead on the delivery of COVID-19-related digital systems, while maintaining and developing other key services on which health and care professionals and the public rely.

The impact of this work has been significant:
  • 150 million vaccination events were processed by the National Booking Service

  • there are now more than 26 million people signed up to the NHS App

  • users have securely logged into digital health and care services using NHS login 1.1 billion times in 2021-22

Our National Booking Service supported the biggest vaccination programme in the NHS’s history, allowing people to book appointments through the NHS website and helping staff at vaccination sites to manage and check in people for appointments. By March 2022, more than 68.9 million vaccination bookings had been made on the platform. In 2021-22, evolving policy throughout the year meant that we continuously adapted the service to enable different cohorts to access it in line with government advice. When jabs became available to 25 to 29 year-olds, more than 1 million vaccination bookings were made in 24 hours. In December 2021, we opened the service to over 18s as part of the accelerated booster programme in response to the Omicron variant.

We are also the technology delivery lead for the National Coronavirus Testing System. In 2021-22, the platform processed more than 350 million test results and we continued to release improvements throughout the year. There were more than 1,000 software releases in response to changing policy.

In June 2021, as lockdown restrictions eased, we launched the NHS COVID Pass, allowing people to securely demonstrate their COVID-19 vaccination status using the NHS App. In September 2021, we further developed the COVID Pass for international and domestic use, which enabled people to travel and access venues and events. And in October 2021, the medical exemptions service went live. This allows individuals who, for medical reasons, are unable to be vaccinated or tested for COVID-19 to prove their exemption through the COVID Pass. It was followed by extensive volume and performance scaling work in December 2021 to support the government’s implementation of ‘Plan B’, which made the NHS COVID Pass mandatory in some settings. More than 300 million COVID passes have been generated since its launch.

350 million test results

processed by our National Coronavirus Testing System

More than 300 million

COVID passes have been generated since its launch. 

The end of 2021 marked 3 years since the launch of the NHS App. There was a sharp increase in the number of people signed up to the app in the past year, partly because of the integration of the COVID Pass. There are now more than 26 million registered users, compared to 2 million at the start of 2020. The app provides quick and secure access to a range of personalised digital health services. It gives people more control of their own care, allowing them to book GP appointments, order repeat prescriptions and register organ donation decisions. 22 million users have now chosen the high-level verification service, which gives access to the app’s full features.

NHS login offers patients a single, trusted login account to access health and care websites, apps and services. Over the past year, we have developed its capabilities and now have 56 integrated partners and services. In 2021-22, users securely logged in to digital health and care services using NHS login 1.1 billion times. One feature of the service is the ability for users to update their contact information on the Personal Demographics Service. 7.8 million contact details were updated by patients in 2021-22, ensuring health and care professionals have up-to-date information to support the delivery of services. 

In 2021-22, there were more than 1.2 billion visits to the NHS website. As well as providing the public with reliable and accessible health information, including COVID-19 guidance, the NHS website also hosts digital tools and services to help connect patients with the treatment they need. In June 2021, the ‘Get your NHS COVID Pass letter’ service went live, allowing people to request a printed, audio, large print or braille NHS COVID Pass letter for travel as an alternative to the electronic confirmation already available via the NHS App. To date, more than 7.3 million letters have been requested and sent out.

Our Urgent and Emergency Care services, such as NHS Pathways and NHS 111 online, help manage the demand on NHS services. NHS Pathways is the national clinical tool used to remotely assess and triage NHS 111 and 999 calls. It handled nearly 20 million calls in the year and we continued to develop the system with 5 major releases. These included clinical updates on a range of topics such as mental health, improving chest pain triage and COVID-19. Acting as an audit for the NHS 111 service, our Repeat Caller Service monitors users who have been processed through the service 3 times or more in a 96-hour period. In September 2021, we upgraded the service to a more modern platform. 

Our Direct Care APIs team has worked with GP clinical system suppliers to develop new application programming interfaces (APIs). APIs make data from clinical systems available in a standard form so that authorised clinicians can access it when and where they need it. Our Access Record HTML product gives clinicians a read-only view of a patient’s record, regardless of their practice’s clinical system. That means the record can be viewed within another GP practice, an urgent care call centre, or an acute care organisation via an accredited system or application. Our Appointment Management product allows GP appointments to be shared across primary care networks so that organisations can manage appointments and support joined-up patient care. In 2021-22, there were more than 36 million interactions with patient records via Access Record (HTML), with 99% of GP practices in England enabled to share records. More than 1.7 million appointments were booked for patients using Appointment Management.

More than 1.2 billion

visits to the NHS website in 2021-22

36 million interactions

with patient records via our Access Record HTML

The GP Data for Planning and Research programme launched in May 2021. In the months that followed, concerns were raised by patients, professionals and the public about the proposed security and controls on access to data. The then Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Primary Care and Health Promotion wrote to GPs offering reassurance that a series of commitments would be met before any data was collected. The programme was redesigned to meet the ministerial commitments and realise our ambitions to unlock the benefits of GP data to improve the planning of services, support the treatment and care of patients, and enable research which could unlock new treatments and cures. With a firm commitment to ongoing openness and transparency, our work includes developing a trusted research environment for approved researchers to access limited GP data within a secure NHS environment, and clear and effective communications and engagement to ensure both professionals and the public are involved and informed throughout.

The Interoperable Medicines programme is providing high-quality data to improve our understanding of the use, cost, safety and effectiveness of medicines. Fast Healthcare Interoperability Resources (FHIR) is the global industry standard for passing healthcare data between systems. A set of interoperable medicines FHIR standards and implementation guidance has been co-created by suppliers and the NHS. This will allow the seamless transfer of medicines information across all health and care services, supporting safer, more joined-up patient care and reducing the burden on clinicians, who will be able to access accurate patient medication data at the point of care. In October 2021, we published an Information Standard Notice outlining new common standards for the transfer of medicines information, with the aim of these standards being adopted across the NHS by March 2023.

We also develop, run and maintain national screening programmes that are inclusive, safe and easy to use. Our teams provide the software to manage the call and recall of women across the UK who are eligible for breast screening. In the past year, we successfully migrated the Breast Screening Information System and Breast Screening Select (which flags those who may be at higher risk of breast cancer) to a cloud-hosted environment, which is more cost-effective, adaptable and secure. 

We also run separate systems in England and the Isle of Man to identify those eligible for bowel cancer screening. Both systems send invitations to eligible people, manage appointments and record test results. Over the next 4 years, the screening age for bowel cancer in England will fall from 60 to 50 years-old and we are supporting that transition. 

In parallel, we are developing a new NHS Cervical Screening Management System to replace the current call and recall system. This sits on the National Health Application and Infrastructure Services platform, and we are working with NHS England and Cervical Screening Administration Service colleagues to plan next steps.

Case study: NHS App

Alexis Farrow, Programme Director at Digital Notts, tells us how the NHS App has helped Nottingham and Nottinghamshire to improve its digital health and care services. 

Digital Notts is the digital transformation delivery programme across Nottingham and Nottinghamshire integrated care service (ICS) that is helping to transform local health and care services through digital solutions.

Programme Director Alexis Farrow has seen first-hand how the NHS App has helped drive opportunities and support change for healthcare professionals and patients. 

Image of Alexis Farrow

People wanted a single, secure place to access their health records, GP services and up-to-date information. After understanding what mattered to our population, the NHS App was the perfect ‘front door’ for public-facing digital services.

It provided patients with the ability to access their records, make GP appointments and order repeat prescriptions. On top of this, the NHS App made it easier and quicker for people to securely connect to digital health services through online identity verification.

One local practice decided to encourage patients to register for the NHS App as an alternative to their prescription phone line that was inundated each week. As a result, Derby Road Health Centre has seen its prescription requests via the NHS App double since January 2021, freeing up staff’s time to carry out other responsibilities within the practice.

NHS App has been pivotal in enabling Nottingham and Nottinghamshire ICS to deliver digitally enabled health and care services through a single point of access, which has helped hundreds of thousands of patients access health and care services in an accessible and convenient way – it has also helped reduce the demand and recovery for our operational services.

Last edited: 17 October 2022 2:10 pm