NHS app to widen users’ access to health records

Written by Sam Trendall on 13 June 2022 in News

Strategy makes commitment to allow patients to view a greater range of information

Credit: Weiss & Parz/CC BY-SA 2.0

Over the next 18 months citizens will be able to access a greater range of care records via the NHS app, government has pledged.

In a new national strategy for the use of data across the health and social care system, government pledged that the app – which has 25 million registered users – would “improve access to GP records” over the coming months.

By November of this year, users will be able to view “their latest health information”, the document said. By the end of 2023, the program will offer users “the ability to digitally request historic coded information including diagnosis, blood test results, and immunisations”.

By March 2024, government also intends to grow the user base of the app to include 75% of the adult population of England. This would mean on-boarding at least another eight million users for the software, uptake of which has increased tenfold since the NHS Covid Pass vaccine passports was added as a feature.

The strategy, dubbed Data saves lives, also lays out plans to improve the systems that underpin care records.

Between now and 2025, NHS and government “will continue to support local systems to roll out shared care records across England – subject to HM Treasury approval – providing the necessary data and API infrastructure to enable the public to access their records through national and local solutions”.

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The strategy, which sets out 105 individual commitments across seven key objectives, also unveils a plan to map technical debt and use of legacy tech across national health systems. This process, which is also intended to “prioritise what must be addressed and completed through relevant programmes of work”, will be completed by September. 

“We want to reshape our legacy systems and platforms into smaller discrete services by creating platforms that can talk to each other and work together, and so can easily be used to access data,” the strategy said. “This will avoid delays in diagnosis, prevent tests from being repeated unnecessarily, and get members of the public the treatment and care that they need. These changes will be challenging to deliver, requiring collaborative working across the health and care system, but they are essential for the population to fully realise the benefits from the data available.”

Other measures put forward by the government include a public consultation on a so-called “data pact”, which will provide express details of how patient data will used by healthcare system.

Some of the most transformative plans included in the plan are for the use of data in the social care sector, where government claims that only 45% of providers currently use digital records. The strategy sets a target of increasing this to 80% by March 2024 – supported by £25m of additional funding to be provided in the current fiscal year.

Speaking at an event today, health and social care secretary Sajid Javid is expected to say: “We will improve trust in data, which is the currency that data-driven technologies need to function. We will work with the public, including people working in health and care, to develop a new pact on data, which will set out how we will use health and care data, and what the public has the right to expect. This will include the ability to opt out of sharing data. Because although we know that most people want their data to be used for good, we will make the opt-out system simpler and more transparent.”

He will add: “We must be open and honest about the fact that social care lags behind the NHS when it comes to digital transformation. Our social care system is home to some of our most vulnerable in our society, and so the opportunities on offer are even greater. This strategy shows our determination to close the digital divide that exists between the NHS and social care.”


About the author

Sam Trendall is editor of PublicTechnology. He can be reached on sam.trendall@dodsgroup.com.

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