NHS app on a phone

The National Health Service (NHS) in England has introduced a new (smartphone or tablet) app for patients, called ‘the NHS App’. This app has been available in England from July 2019. People are able to use the app to see their medical records, prove their Covid-19 vaccination status, book appointments, order repeat prescriptions, add their name to the organ donation register, have online consultations and undertake other tasks related to their health and care.

This research will look at what different group think about the NHS App, how they use it, whether they find the app helpful, and whether it changes how people use the NHS. We are working with patients, carers, clinical and non-clinical staff, commissioners and policy-makers to explore the use, roll out of the NHS App.

This project was developed in 2019 to evaluate the newly developed NHS App. It is important to note that this is not the Covid-19 App used for contact tracing (which has received much publicity of late) or a commercial app which has been branded as a NHS App.

How we are evaluating the NHS App

The research will primarily use interviews and discussion groups (either virtually or face-to-face, if possible) with people who do and do not use the app, with staff working in the NHS (e.g. doctors, nurses, receptionists, practice managers) and with those working in healthcare planning or technology development for the NHS. These interviews and discussion groups will try to understand what people think about the app, and whether they find it helpful. We will also sit (either virtually or face-to-face, if possible) with people and watch how they use the app in practice.

We will also examine whether and how the app has changed the way people use or access the health service, rates of organ donation and rates of data opt outs. In answering these questions, we will investigate how adoption and use of the app varies by age, gender, ethnicity and other protected characteristics, as well as regional variations and variations in socio-economic status, to understand the potential impact on health inequalities.

To evaluate the use and acceptability of the NHS App, we will assess early patterns of uptake and adoption of the app and measure its stated aims to improve: 

  1. Access to primary care services
  2. Online prescription ordering
  3. Access to patient records

We will work closely with NHSX and NHS Digital teams responsible for the development and implementation of the app so that we can learn from their experience, and we can feedback our findings to help improve the app.

The team

The project is run jointly by Imperial College and Oxford University.

Co-Principal Investigators:

  • Dr Felix Greaves, (Imperial College London) and Director - Science, Evidence and Analytics at NICE
  • Professor John PowelI, Professor of Digital Health Care in the Nuffield Department of Primary Care Health Sciences (University of Oxford)  and Consultant Clinical Adviser at NICE

Study team at Imperial:

  • Dr Céire Costelloe, Senior Lecturer in the Department of Primary Care and Public health and Director of the Global Digital Health Unit
  • Salina Tewolde, a Research Assistant in the School of Public Health, Primary Care & Public Health

Study team at Oxford:

  • Dr Chrysanthi Papoutsi, Senior Researcher in the Nuffield Department of Primary Care Health Sciences
  • Dr Claire Reidy, Health Services Researcher in the Nuffield Department of Primary Care Health Sciences
  • Dr Bernard Gudgin, PPI representative, and a member of the Oxford ARC board and a PPI lead on several projects

How we are involving patients and the public

We work closely with our patient and public involvement (PPI) group to design and undertake the study. For example, we work with the group to refine what questions to ask in the interviews and discussion groups, and how to ask these questions when we talk to patients and NHS Staff. We will also ask our PPI members to help with understanding what we have found out from the interviews and discussions groups and how to share these findings with others. There will also be opportunities for writing up the work in different formats. We will work with our PPI group to help communicate our findings to NHS staff, patients, policymakers and the public.

How will we share findings about the study?

We will communicate the findings by going to events where we can talk about the work, preparing presentations about the study and findings, and also by writing and blogging about it on our department and the NHS App’s web pages. In addition we plan to write academic papers reporting on the outcomes of this study as well as providing lay summaries to participants of the study. 

Wider team

Our collaborators include:

  • Dr Nikki Patel, Clinical Programme Lead – NHS App, NHS England
  • Professor Ara Darzi Director of the Institute for Global Health Innovation at Imperial College London.
  • Professor Azeem Majeed Professor of Primary Care and Head of Department of Primary Care and Public Health at Imperial College London
  • Professor Ian Maconochie, Deputy Medical Director, Consultant and Professor of Practice in Paediatric Emergency Medicine, Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust
  • Mr Joshua Symons, Associate Director – Data Optimization, NHS Digital

Our funder

National Institute for Health Research - Health Services and Delivery Research (HSDR) programme, project number: NIHR128285


If you want to contact us for more information, please email Dr Claire Reidy.