Skip to main content
Creating a new NHS England: NHS England and NHS Digital merged on 1 February 2023. More about the merger.
Blog

Expanding online consultations in the NHS App

Dan Collins, Senior Product Manager for the NHS App, explains why we want to open up the app to more suppliers offering online consultation services and welcomes the latest service to integrate.

During the height of the first lockdown, we launched the first online consultation service in the NHS App. At a time when we had to reduce avoidable footfall in our doctor’s surgeries to protect both staff and patients, this was a big achievement: it offered about 20 million people a new, digital way to contact their GP practice for guidance and help. 

A hand holds a mobile phone showing a GP enquiry form on the NHS App

2 years on, me and my colleagues in the NHS App team are continuing to increase the number of services integrated with the NHS App to provide more people across England with access to their locally commissioned online consultation system providers. 

The latest supplier to integrate with the NHS App is Accurx. Their forms-based service is now available to more than 1,000 GP practices in England covering about 11 million patients. They join eConsult, Engage Health and Substrakt, bringing the total number of GP practices that can access online consultations via the NHS App to more than 3,500. 


Why online consultations?

Research conducted in February 2022 from 1,779 respondents revealed that the most common method for patients to request a GP consultation was via phone, with ‘in-person’ the next most popular option. Providing more NHS App users with a digital option to access advice from their GP offers greater flexibility and starts to promote digital as a common method to engage with primary care.   

In allowing trusted, locally commissioned online consultation service suppliers like Accurx to integrate with the NHS App, we are helping to improve patient experience, make sure they get the right appointment for their needs, and reduce the burden on front-line primary care health practitioners across England. This is core to NHS England’s primary care strategy


What Accurx offers

Accurx’s online consultation feature, ‘Patient Triage’, is a web-based online consultation tool which allows patients to submit a short medical or administrative query directly to the GP. 

The service is integrated with EMIS and SystmOne and allows GPs and other practice staff the ability to save incoming queries to the patient record with just a click. 

GPs who offer Accurx online consultation forms via the NHS App allow their patients to:  

  • enquire about a medical issue  
  • attach a photo of the condition 
  • enquire about a repeat prescription  
  • enquire about recent test results 
  • request doctor’s letters and fit notes 

What we learnt from the Accurx integration

Through our collaboration with Accurx, it became clear that suppliers needed to know they had to adhere closely to our integration standards. 

For example, ensuring an understanding of our minimum accessibility standard is particularly important as suppliers begin ‘step-2’ of our process, the product assessment. This will allow the supplier to apportion sufficient time for arranging an accessibility audit of their service and addressing any issues that may arise from the audit. 

As with all our products and services, before going live with Accurx, it went through several rounds of user-testing. We needed to make sure that users could intuitively find the Accurx service within the NHS App interface. 

We found that most users expected to be able to contact their GP with medical queries using the ‘Advice’ section of the NHS App. Equally, we found that on average, users associated the ‘Messages’ section of the app as the place to request common administrative tasks, such as requesting a fit note. 

This insight made us confident in the way we integrated the service and that the services offered by Accurx would be discoverable by users. 


How we’re supporting suppliers

We want to make it as easy as possible for suppliers to integrate their services with the NHS App. To do this, our team has invested in resources for suppliers that explain the requirements common to each integration with the NHS App, from first contact with our team through to launch.  

I also wrote a blog post about our ‘integration in a box’ self-serve tools, which aims to better support supplier development teams throughout the onboarding process. 

Planning future developments

Our strategy lays out how the NHS App will become a front door to not only online consultation services, but many other digital health services as well. 

If you’d like to know more about the integration process, please visit the NHS App pages on our website or email app.onboarding@nhs.net.   



Related subjects

We want to make it as easy as possible for suppliers to integrate their services with the NHS App. Dan Collins, Senior Product Manager at NHS Digital, explains some new self-serve tools we think will help.
Susie Day, Programme Head for the NHS App, explains how new features help support patients and clinicians to meet an increasing need for remote access to services during the pandemic and how they will improve healthcare after the current crisis.
Tracy Higgs, Product Lead for online consultations in the NHS App, explains how her team has made asking a GP for advice through the app available for almost 20 million people.

Author

Last edited: 7 December 2022 2:25 pm