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Information for staff: what you need to know

If you work at a GP practice, particularly in a patient-facing role, find out what you need to know to help your practice and patients get the most benefit from the NHS App. 

Take a free interactive course on the NHS App

NHSX, NHS Digital and the Practice Managers Association have developed a free interactive course to help practice staff learn about the NHS App.

The NHS App has been developed by the NHS in England. It is a new way for patients to connect to your practice and other NHS services, allowing them to:

  • check their symptoms using the health A-Z from the NHS website
  • find out what to do when they need help urgently, using NHS 111 online
  • book and manage appointments at your GP practice, if you have this service enabled
  • order repeat prescriptions for collection at your practice or a pharmacy they have already nominated
  • set or change their pharmacy nomination (does not apply to dispensing practices or dispensing appliance contractors )
  • securely view their GP medical record
  • receive and send messages (if your practice uses EMIS or TPP and has enabled this feature)
  • access medical services for someone in their care, for example a child ( if your practice uses the EMIS or TPP clinical systems and both patients are registered at your practice)
  • register to be an organ donor
  • choose how the NHS uses their data

The NHS App is available to download now from the Google Play or Apple app store.

All practices are now connected.

The NHS App links with the clinical system you use, in the same way that GP online services, and other third-party apps, work.

In the NHS App pilot, we found that the NHS App made things easier for staff at GP practices, because:

  • most patients can register and verify their identity through the app, rather than visiting the practice
  • once they are registered, patients can book appointments and ask for repeat prescriptions without needing to call or visit the practice

What you need to do

How to support your patients and help them use the app, so that patients and your practice can benefit.

1. Check how your appointments appear to patients

When patients try to book appointments through the NHS App, they see a version of what has been entered in the clinical system you use. Patients tell us this is often confusing. Appointment names were probably set up for the convenience of staff, not patients, and so we're asking practices to check. If you know what patients are seeing, you can improve their experience of using this function of the app.

Find guidance on checking and changing appointment settings, including setting up a test patient account

2. Promote the NHS App

Patients can find out about the NHS App by visiting www.nhs.uk/nhsapp. They can find links to download it from app stores.

The NHS App will not replace existing services. Patients can continue to use GP online services or contact your practice in the usual ways if they prefer.

You can find posters and leaflets for you to print out and other advice to help you tell patients about the NHS App on our promotion guidance page.

3. Tell patients where to get help

Patients can get help with the NHS App at www.nhs.uk/apphelp

If patients cannot find the help they need on this page, they can contact us at www.nhs.uk/contact-us/nhs-app-feedback-form

4. Help patients verify their identity or turn on online services

Some patients will need you to verify their identity and provide them with GP online registration details  so they can use them to set up their NHS login and access the NHS App. Patients at practices that use Microtest may need you to enable their online services. See GP practice NHS login guidance for more information and step-by-step guidance.

5. Safeguarding and managing inappropriate use

As the NHS App uses NHS login, most patients can get access to the GP online services available through the app without the practice having any involvement.  If they don't already have a GP online services account, they will get the practice's default level of access to these services, generally: appointment booking, repeat prescription requests and summary record level access to their medical records, which includes personal information, recent medications and allergy information.

To prevent a patient from having access to this level of access, you need to adjust the settings within their account.

Safeguarding reasons for restricting access include where the patient:

  • cancels appointments they need, for example if they have dementia - all appointments can be cancelled through the app, even if they were booked in person
  • is at risk of coercion through online access

Appointment booking also has the potential to be misused.

Your practice should already have a procedure in place for managing this issue with other online services, but if your procedure has been simply to delete the online account, this needs to be amended.

Guidance on coercion and other considerations can be found in RGCP guidance on GP online services.

Stop patients accessing services

If you need to revoke patient access to appointment booking or record access, it is important to do it within the individual patient's online account settings. If you simply delete their whole online access account, a new one will automatically be created the next time they use the NHS App.

6. Answer questions on viewing patient records

The level of detail a patient sees in their medical record through the NHS App is set in the practice's clinical system, and not by the app itself. The default level of access a patient has is generally ‘summary care information’, which includes demographic, allergy and medication information.

Patients who wish to access more sections of their medical record, or believe there is an error in it, will need to raise this directly with you at the GP practice. This is because the practice remains the custodian of the patient’s record and decisions about whether to provide access or amend it must be made by a clinician.

Patients who have already been given access to more sections of their medical record will be able to access them via the NHS App. However, patients will not be able to view documents through this version of the NHS App.

The app will not enter any information into a patient’s record.

7. Answer questions on repeat prescriptions

Patients can request repeat prescriptions through the app. If a patient has already nominated a pharmacy, prescriptions will be sent there. If not, they will be sent to the practice to be picked up. Patients can now set or change a nomination through the NHS App. (This does not apply to dispensing practices or dispensing appliance contractors.)

8. Help with proxy access

Proxy access lets patients access medical services for someone in their care, for example a child. Proxy access in the NHS App is now available if your practice uses the EMIS or TPP clinical systems and both patients are registered at your practice.

If a patient already has proxy access enabled, it will automatically appear within the NHS App. Patients can switch between views of their own profile and the other patient by clicking on ‘Linked profiles’ within the app.

It is not possible to set it up through the NHS App.

If a patient asks you for proxy access, you can set it up using your normal processes in your clinical system. It will then be available in the NHS App and in any other online service you use which provides proxy access. 

Practices should follow the existing guidelines for proxy access and identity verification provided by the Royal College of General Practitioners.

Patients can get more information on proxy access on the nhs.uk website.

It is not planned for practices using Microtest or Vision as they do not currently support proxy access.

9. Secure messaging

The EMIS and TPP clinical systems provide a secure messaging facility. This enables patients to send non-urgent enquiries to their practice who can send replies using the clinical system. Around 900 practices currently use this feature. Patients can now send and receive secure messages in the NHS App if:

  • their practice uses EMIS or TPP 
  • the practice has enabled this feature in their clinical system

Secure messaging is not currently supported in Microtest and Vision clinical systems. It should only be used for non-urgent messages.

Guidance on secure messaging for EMIS practices

How to activate online services, including secure messaging for patients (EMIS website) 

How to manage secure messages (EMIS website) 

Practices cannot start a conversation with a patient via secure message in the EMIS system. You can only reply to a patient message.

Guidance on secure messaging for TPP practices

Refer to your TPP training manual or the F1 help system, or view videos on the TPP learning academy youtube channel.

10. Online consultations

Online consultation is now available within the NHS App for practices who use eConsult. The ability to triage patients using an online consultation system is critical during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. Patients can use this forms-based service to request GP advice without booking an appointment. eConsult is the first supplier to provide online consultation services within the NHS App. Find out more and download suggested text to promote this feature to your patients.

11. Track your patients’ use of the NHS App

Use the NHS App dashboard to see how many patients at your practice are using the NHS App, and which features they are using.

You can also see the figures for other practices, and your own and other geographical areas.

Find out about the NHS App dashboard and how to register.

12. Help with digital inclusion

Digital tools can empower patients to take control of their own health and care. We know lots of people face barriers to using apps and other technology, and that in some places GP practices are doing great work to help patients get on line and use new digital services. Our digital inclusion guide could help you help patients get on board. 

Further information

  1. internal

    Guidance for GP practices on the NHS App

    Check your systems, find out what staff need to know, get posters and other materials to tell your patients about the app, and find out the benefits to your practice.

Last edited: 18 May 2020 5:39 pm