Health Secretary challenges NHS to deliver digital services nationwide

Jeremy Hunt addresses Health and Care Innovation Expo in Manchester on 12 September.

Every patient in England should be able access their medical records and book an appointment with a GP via an app by the end of 2018, Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt has said.

Speaking at the Health and Care Innovation Expo in Manchester on 12 September, he referred to the next 10 years as ‘the decade of patient power’.

By the end of 2018 - the 70th birthday year of the NHS - the Health Secretary said he expects every patient in England to be able to do the following online through an app:

• access NHS 111
• access their healthcare record
• book a GP appointment
• order repeat prescriptions
• express their organ donation preferences
• express their data sharing preferences
• access support for managing a long term condition

Pilot schemes are already underway, with ongoing evaluation before a potential national roll-out.

Jeremy Hunt said:

"If the NHS is going to be the safest, highest quality healthcare system in the world we need to do technology better. So today I am setting 7 challenges which, if we achieve them, will make the NHS a world-beater in the care of people with long term conditions.

"People should be able to access their own medical records 24/7, show their full medical history to anyone they choose and book basic services like GP appointments or repeat prescriptions online.

"I do not underestimate the challenge of getting there - but if we do it will be the best possible 70th birthday present from the NHS to its patients."

Online trials of support for long-term conditions have already been successful, with apps such as MyCOPD helping patients manage their conditions with less reliance on GP and hospital appointments.

To ensure independent ‘digital doctors’ are operating at the same high standard as the rest of the NHS, the Department of Health has launched a consultation about expanding the number of providers included in the Care Quality Commission’s ratings system.

Imelda Redmond, National Director of Healthwatch England said:

"The vision set out by the Secretary of State directly addresses what patients and the broader public have told Healthwatch they want from a modern NHS, and is a huge step forward in ensuring all of us get the sort of integrated service we have come to expect in many other areas of life."

In his address to delegates the Health Secretary also announced:

• the launch of MyNHS open data challenge - a £100,000 fund to reward most creative apps and digital tools to improve services
• an update on the acute and mental health global digital exemplars – organisations which deliver care through world-class use of digital technology and information flows
• which trusts will form part of a further wave of exemplars – the ‘Fast Followers’ - which will receive £160 million funding
• £21 million of new matched funding for up to 7 mental health “Fast Followers” - creating fresh investment of up to £42 million