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NHS App strategy: developing the digital ecosystem

How will decisions be made about integrating services?

If the NHS App is to become a channel to different services that can support and enable a vibrant ecosystem, we need an approach that works for services that are commissioned and delivered at national and at local level. 

National

The NHS App will continue to provide access to a small set of national services. These services:

  • are built once 
  • can be used by everyone in England
  • are usually operated by a national agency 

Existing examples in the NHS App are NHS 111 online and the NHS Organ Donation Register

Future services might include the ability to update your demographic information on the NHS Spine or to set your contact preferences.

Local 

The NHS App can channel a range of services that are commissioned and delivered locally. These services: 

  • are usually provided by suppliers, often in a marketplace 
  • are commissioned and controlled by local health and care bodies, such as clinical commissioning groups 

Existing examples in the NHS App are services provided by GP surgeries, such as ordering repeat prescriptions and booking appointments.  All GP surgeries in England currently use 1 of 4 different IT suppliers and the NHS App is now integrated with them all. 

Our vision is that, where appropriate, patients willl be able to use the NHS App to access the services that have been commissioned locally.

Integrating local services into the NHS App can be complex. It usually involves:

  • engaging and managing ongoing relationships with multiple suppliers 
  • development work for the NHS App team and each supplier 
  • testing and assurance work 
  • checking that services can grow and handle the increased demand in an affordable way

We want to work with the regions to determine which types of services to integrate with the app. These decisions should be based on the combined needs of citizens, clinicians and commissioners, and on strategic policy priorities.

Several factors will be important when considering which local services to integrate. We will be looking for services that:

  • meet a confirmed user need
  • are citizen facing
  • are aligned with a strategic priority for the NHS, such as improving access to health records or reducing the burden on staff
  • have support from local health and care providers, particularly where local business processes will have to change to successfully deliver the service
  • have support from local commissioners (services that have the most support from local commissioners are likely to be given higher priority)
  • add value to the NHS App.

With this in mind, we have prioritised the following types of services to integrate with the NHS App.

GP system suppliers 

As more suppliers join the GP IT Futures Framework, we will work to ensure that citizens can continue to book appointments, order repeat prescriptions and access their medical record in the NHS App.

Online consultations - forms-based triage 

During the NHS App pilot in autumn 2018 we found that appointment availability was a major source of frustration for patients. We also learnt that GP surgeries generally do not make a lot of appointments available to book online for several reasons, including the fear of citizen misuse. 

We believe that the ability to triage patients in the online appointment booking process is critical. This will give GP surgery staff more confidence that the right people are getting the right appointments. 

Several suppliers provide systems that have been commissioned locally and that enable surgeries to triage patients who want to book an appointment. We have started work with some of these suppliers to integrate their systems with the NHS App. 

Read about NHS England's Digital First Primary Care work.

Personal Health Records (PHRs) 

PHRs allow citizens to view the electronic records held about them by different health and care services, and add information into them. For example, a citizen might be able to fill in a mood diary, add images, or upload data from health monitoring devices and equipment. 

PHRs add to the information that health and care teams hold about the citizen and form a comprehensive shared record that ultimately leads to better health outcomes.  

When we asked NHS App users which new feature they would most like to see in the app, the most popular suggestion was to have access to richer medical record information from secondary care settings. 

PHRs sit well alongside the services already provided in the NHS App. Citizens and health and care staff would also benefit if PHRs could be accessed via the NHS App as this would help to increase the number of people accessing and contributing to them. 

We are working with a small group of organisations that provide online consultation services and PHRs to integrate their services into the NHS App. 

These suppliers are on NHS England/Improvement’s Dynamic Purchasing Framework (DPS) for Online Consultation suppliers, or the Innovation and Technology Payment (ITP) framework for PHR suppliers.

We will work closely with these organisations and others to develop, learn from and test our processes to help ensure we make the right decisions. We will publish more about how we will work with these organisations in the spring.  

Are our decisions based on the right factors? Do these services sound like the right priorities? Tell us what you think

Last edited: 4 March 2020 10:30 am