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Surge in the number of people using NHS tech during Coronavirus outbreak

Research this week shows 38% of people have increased their use of NHS technology since the start of the Coronavirus outbreak.
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Research this week shows 38% of people have increased their use of NHS technology since the start of the Coronavirus outbreak.

The survey carried out by nfpSynergy asked 1000 people if they were using more NHS technology (such as apps and websites) as a result of the outbreak, and 26% agreed that their NHS tech usage had increased, while a further 12% strongly agreed.

Some of the NHS technologies seeing the biggest increases are listed below:

NHS website:

The NHS website is one of the biggest health-related websites in the world; usually attracting around 30 million visits a month (950k visits a day).

In the month of March 2020, visit numbers increased to 61,311,711 (the highest ever) – with the COVID-19 content page being visited 28,252,103 times.

Visits to NHS.uk peaked on the March 17 with 3.4m hits. More than 2.1m of these were to the COVID-19 content page.

NHS App:

The NHS App provides a simple and secure way for people to access a range of NHS services on their smartphone or tablet – from ordering repeat prescriptions to booking and cancelling GP appointments.

In March 2020, there were 119,512 registrations to use the NHS App, which is an increase of 111% from February when there were 56,655.

The number of repeat prescription requests made via the app increased by 97% - from 50,341 in February to 98,984 in March, and the number of patient record views rose by 62% - from 276,400 in February to 448,477 in March.

NHS Pathways:

NHS Pathways is the triage software, which every year directs more than 17.5m 111 and 999 calls to the most appropriate service available.

In March 2020, the system was responsible for triaging 1,624,258 calls to 111 and 999, which is a 12.2% increase from March last year when it triaged 1,447,269 calls.

This is an increase of 143,006 calls to 111 and 33,983 calls to 999.

NHS 111 online:

NHS 111 online allows patients to get urgent healthcare online. It also helps to manage increasing demand on 111 telephone services.

Prior to the COVID-19 outbreak, NHS 111 online averaged 10k users every day (8k during the week and 12k on a weekend).

During March 2020, NHS 111 online had 16,995,602 users, which is a daily average of 548,245. On its busiest day last month (March 17), it had nearly a million users (950k).

NHS login:

NHS login provides patients with a simple, secure and re-usable way to access multiple digital health and care services such as the NHS App.

The number of NHS login accounts increased by 45% last month - from 670,796 at the end of February to 1,002,689 at the end of March.  

This significantly increased the workload of the NHS login team who verified 150,184 new accounts in March, compared with 62,011 new accounts in February.

Electronic Prescribing Service (EPS):

EPS allows prescribers to send prescriptions electronically to a pharmacy of the patient's choice – making the prescribing and dispensing process more efficient and convenient for both patients and staff.

Pharmacies have seen an increase in the number of EPS nominations – with numbers rising by over 1.25m from 33.27m on February 28 to 34.52m on March 27.

To put this into context, the four-week period prior to this had an increase of 304k.

Microsoft Teams:

Microsoft Teams was recently made available to NHS organisations for free (for a limited time period) to counter the increased risks associated with COVID-19.

NHS Digital finished rolling out the messaging tool to all NHSmail users on March 20, and between March 22–28 it was used to facilitate 973,072 private online chats – rising from 6,804 on March 22 to a peak of 243,927 on March 26. 

During the same seven-day period, it also facilitated 66,736 team online chats, 76,173 private calls and 68,365 team calls.

This equates to around 28,148 unique users per day - starting with 4,812 on March 22 and peaking at 44,885 on March 27.

Ben Davison NHS Digital’s Executive Director for Product Development said: “These are unprecedented times and with social distancing now the norm for everyone, we’re really starting to see digital technologies come to the fore – not just in the NHS but in all walks of life.

“Good technology is making it possible for doctors, nurses and other health professionals to continue to deliver care remotely where possible and freeing up time for those patients who need face-to-face care. It’s keeping people well whilst they are isolated with good information and advice and the ability to manage things like prescriptions remotely.

“We’re fully prepared for the numbers using NHS tech to continue increasing over the coming days and weeks, as the general public continue to play a key role in helping to ease the burden on our fantastic frontline services.”

Notes for editors

  1. NHS Digital is the national information and technology partner of the health and care system.  Our team of information analysis, technology and project management experts create, deliver and manage the crucial digital systems, services, products and standards upon which health and care professionals depend.  During the 2018-19 financial year, NHS Digital published 287 statistical reports. Our vision is to harness the power of information and technology to make health and care better.

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Last edited: 2 April 2020 11:21 am