Skip to main content
Creating a new NHS England: Health Education England, NHS Digital and NHS England have merged. More about the merger.

The NHS App after the pandemic

Susie Day, Programme Director for the NHS App, looks at what’s changed since the app’s launch in January 2019 and how its services are evolving post-COVID.

NHS 75 is an incredibly proud moment for me and, I hope, for all the people who work so hard across the NHS and its wider ecosystem to provide care for patients up and down the country.

In the lead up to the NHS 75 celebrations, I have reflected on what has changed since NHS 70 and, particularly, about the evolution of the NHS App since its launch at the beginning of 2019.

Hand holding a mobile phone with the NHS App open on screen.

The first years of the NHS App

I published my first blog about the NHS App 3 years ago. It was the height of the COVID-19 pandemic and we had just marked a huge milestone: 1 million sign-ups.

The app was coming up to its second birthday and lots of work had already been done to introduce more features and services to help people manage and interact with their healthcare.

What I said then is true today. Every transaction enabled in the NHS App – from self-triage, through ordering a repeat medication, to accessing a test result – saves time for patients and healthcare professionals. It prevents a piece of paper being printed and moving from hand-to-hand through the system.


So, what’s changed? The most obvious thing is the scale at which we are operating.

The NHS App was logged into over 19 million times in May 2023.

The app was built for use at scale. So, when we saw a huge increase in sign-ups during the pandemic, the service was able to support them. We were the most downloaded free iPhone app in England in 2021.

Use remains higher than at the beginning of 2021, with monthly login and unique login numbers at a post-COVID baseline, and we continue to work not only to increase our user base, but to ensure the app is useful for and helpful to its users.

Changing demand

The second thing that has changed – or evolved – is people’s expectations. Our users want us to make it even easier to use services in the app. They’ve told us that being able to start and complete a task on the app is important to them, and they want smooth integration with other services. Being able to see what’s in their health record may lead them to want to contact their GP or get some help and advice, and we need to ensure that works as a cohesive journey for them.

Our priority, and our challenge, is to work out how we increase the number of services available in the app while ensuring that all of them, individually and collectively, offer a good experience for users. This is often complex, but it has to feel simple: we work hard to ensure that, when a user opens the app, they can use the services relevant to them.

The NHS App is part of a large and complex landscape of national and locally commissioned systems.

We understand that the app is only one part of a patient’s end-to-end journey and that our services interact with different parts of that journey. Our teams of researchers and designers also consider the wider context for these interactions. The NHS App is part of a large and complex landscape of national and locally commissioned systems supporting the NHS. There are other tools and apps available to help people manage their health.  

And it’s not all about digital systems. The teams working across the Digital Citizen agenda know that we have a duty to consider not only the role digital can play, but how what we offer can supplement other channels rather than replace them.

Improvements and new services added in 2022-23

We have been working hard on some new features to make the NHS App more useful to more people.

These include:
  • more than 40 million patients can now book and manage their hospital outpatient appointments on the NHS App. This new feature is available across 31 trusts and will roll out further
  • COVID-19 vaccination appointments can be managed in the NHS App. This service was launched in November 2022. Eligible people can now receive a message in their NHS App, letting them know they are eligible to book appointments. As of 9 April 2023, more than 641,000 invitations for COVID-19 vaccinations had been sent via the NHS App
  • general practice patients can receive messages and alerts from their surgery straight to the NHS App, replacing SMS texts or letters
  • users can sign up to be part of health research directly in the app
  • people can use the NHS App to register for a new GP practice (where available)

The future

So, what will the NHS App offer in the future? There is little doubt it will continue to be a key digital tool to support people using the NHS.

On 29 June 2022, the government published a roadmap for future development across the NHS App in A Plan for Digital Health and Social Care. Alongside this, the Digital Citizen teams have set out a roadmap for the future development of the app, published quarterly on the NHS England website.

There are a number of focus areas. These include enabling people to see new information added to their GP health record, giving people more information and choice about their hospital outpatient appointments, and letting people book their flu vaccination appointments on the app. We are also going to modernise the digital prescription service, enhance and extend the use of messaging, and improve navigation to appropriate services. 

This work sees a step-change in the NHS App by leveraging this channel as part of the NHS core service offer for people in England. 

All of this only possible due to the dedication of the NHS App teams, wider NHS England digital teams and NHS suppliers who work closely to deliver a complex set of services all within a single app. It is a team I have been proud to be part of.

We have just updated the NHS App promotional toolkit with a range of posters, leaflets and other materials  to help NHS organisations tell patients about the app.

Related subjects

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.
Rupesh Thakkar, a chief pharmacist for a primary care network in Solihull who also supports the Implementation Team in NHS England's Transformation Directorate, describes how the repeat prescriptions feature on the NHS App helped to ease the pressure on primary care services in his area.   


Last edited: 26 July 2023 3:06 pm