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NHS 111 to get online triage service

Health secretary announces new online services and apps that will be available to patients from the end of next year

The NHS 111 phone service is to be expanded to include an online system.

Speaking at the Health and Care Innovation Expo in Manchester today, health secretary Jeremy Hunt announced new NHS digital services, including an online triage system for NHS 111, the patient advice line for non-emergency conditions.

The phone service, which replaced the nurse-led NHS Direct telephone service, uses trained advisers supported by healthcare professionals, including nurses. But it drew criticism from the RCN last year over a lack of nursing expertise.

Online advice

Mr Hunt said that from the end of next year, patients with less serious health problems will be able to enter their symptoms online and get advice or a call-back from a healthcare professional. 

The online service is being developed with clinicians, he said.

Other services announced by Mr Hunt include a new NHS.uk website, through which patients can register with a GP, book appointments and order prescriptions.

Health apps

NHS England will also launch a series of NHS health apps, and patients will be able to download their personal health records through the NHS.uk website.

Mr Hunt said: ‘We live in the age of the smartphone and we want the NHS to reflect that. 

‘Our new plans will make it easier for patients to get medical support and information they need, and should encourage more of us to use the growing range of online NHS services.’

‘Extreme caution’

Royal College of General Practitioners chair Maureen Baker said asking patients to use an online tool to describe their symptoms instead of speaking to someone over the phone should be ‘approached with extreme caution’.

She warned against such a dramatic overhaul of the NHS 111 service and said vulnerable patients who are not used to dealing with technology could feel alienated.

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