Soon you'll be able to book GP appointments via an NHS app

An app that will allow NHS patients to book GP appointments and access their medical records will be ready to download by the end of the year.

Coinciding with the NHS's 70th anniversary celebrations, the free app will allow patients to make GP appointments, order repeat prescriptions, as well as access the 111 helpline for urgent medical needs.

"In the NHS's 70th year, the new app will take the NHS to a world-leading position by empowering all our patients using digital technology to take charge of their own healthcare and contact the NHS in a way that suits them," said NHS England's national director of operations and information, Matthew Swindells.

"The new app will put the NHS into the pocket of everyone in England but it is just one step on the journey. We are also developing an NHS Apps Library and putting free NHS Wi-Fi in GP surgeries and hospitals."

Forming part of NHS England's wider strategy to digitise the health service, NHS Digital and NHS England will make the jointly-developed app available through the App Store or Google Play by December 2018.

It will allow patients to opt-out of sharing their personal information for research and planning purposes across the health service, mark their preferences on organ donation, and register choices for end-of-life care.

"I want this innovation to mark the death-knell of the 8am scramble for GP appointments that infuriates so many patients," said the health secretary Jeremy Hunt.

"Technology has transformed everyday life when it comes to banking, travel and shopping. Health matters much more to all of us, and the prize of that same digital revolution in healthcare isn't just convenience but lives improved, extended and saved."

The app received a welcome from the Royal College of GPs, but it called for people's data to be properly protected.

Professor Helen Stokes-Lampard, chair of the Royal College of GPs, said: "The new free NHS app that is being rolled out to patients represents a significant and constructive step forward in the way care is managed.

"Some practices already offer many online services and many have steps in place to adopt new technology but GPs and our team are working flat out to meet patient demand and it is vital that all GP surgeries are provided with the additional support and the resources they need to ensure it is introduced as seamlessly as possible without disruptions to patients or practices."

She added: "Adequate safeguards must be in place to ensure the utmost protection of patients' personal data, and considering that patient's medical history will be accessible on individual's mobile phones on the apps, we need to ensure that the security and reliability of the identity verification processes being used are of the highest international security standards."

She called for the scheme to be "rigorously independently evaluated" to ensure it works for patients and practices without becoming an extra burden for GPs.

The Royal College of GPs last week rejected claims that a private sector chatbot could diagnose medical conditions as effectively as a GP, after the chatbot scored a higher-than-average mark in a medical exam.

Picture: Bigstock

Keumars Afifi-Sabet

Keumars Afifi-Sabet is a writer and editor that specialises in public sector, cyber security, and cloud computing. He first joined ITPro as a staff writer in April 2018 and eventually became its Features Editor. Although a regular contributor to other tech sites in the past, these days you will find Keumars on LiveScience, where he runs its Technology section.