Patients will be able to book a GP appointment via a smartphone app by the end of next year, Jeremy Hunt will say tomorrow.
The Health Secretary will refer to the next ten years as ‘the decade of patient power’ as he announces plans to modernise the NHS.
By the end of 2018, he wants all patients to have the opportunity to carry out seven healthcare-related tasks using an app.
They include booking a GP appointment, seeking advice from the NHS 111 service, accessing their healthcare records, and ordering repeat prescriptions.
Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt will announce a ‘decade of patient power’ as he aims to let people use apps to book appointments
Patients may also be able to sign up to the organ donation register, opt out of sharing their medical data, and receive support for treating a long-term condition.
Officials at the Department of Health are trialling different systems and it may be that there are separate apps for each task. If they are rolled out successfully nationwide, it would mean patients could avoid waiting on the phone and would not have to speak to busy receptionists.
Yet many of the most frequent patients are elderly and are not necessarily familiar with smartphones and apps.
However, a spokesman for the Department of Health said older people would still be able to book an appointment over the phone or on a computer.
Tomorrow, Mr Hunt will tell the Health and Care Innovation Expo conference in Manchester that he wants to make the NHS a ‘world-beater’ in the care of patients with long-term ill health.
He will say: ‘If the NHS is going to be the safest, highest quality healthcare system in the world, we need to do technology better.
‘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.’ The trials are under way in areas including south-east London, where patients can book a GP appointment, undergo an online consultation and order a repeat prescription.
The Department of Health is trying out different systems and it may be that there are separate acts for separate services
Caroline Abrahams, charity director of Age UK, said: ‘Digital technology is undoubtedly transforming our lives and an app to speed up the process of booking GP appointments sounds sensible.
‘However, there are millions of older people who aren’t online and, given the speed of change, there is a risk that they will be left behind. Given that older people are the biggest users of the NHS, it will be crucial to ensure that those who are not online do not miss out on, or find it harder to access, essential appointments.’
Although patients should be able to book their GP appointment using an app, they may still expect to see long waiting times.
Many surgeries are facing a recruitment crisis with GPs retiring in their fifties, moving overseas or dropping down to part-time hours. Yet demand for appointments is increasing because of a growing and ageing population.