Local patients using innovative NHS app to get advice on healthcare

An innovative app is proving very popular with patients across the West Midlands who need advice on where to go and what to do if they have an urgent healthcare concern.

Launched a year ago, Ask NHS is a free smartphone app giving patients more flexibility in accessing healthcare advice and support. The app is very user-friendly and patients can get confidential advice based on their symptoms from Olivia, a virtual nurse. They can also search for health services and book GP appointments.

The Ask NHS app now has around 85,000 users across the 22 CCGs in the West Midlands, covering approximately 800 GP practices and a population of 5.5 million. More women (64%) use the app than men and as expected, the app is most popular with younger people (70%+ under the age of 45).

There have been 165,000 digital interactions with the Ask NHS app over the past year. This means that patients have used the app 165,000 times instead of accessing other NHS services like NHS 111 and GP services, which reduces pressure on these services.

The Ask NHS app’s symptom checker is proving to be particularly popular and can advise patients on how to take care of themselves as well as signposting them to their GP or another service if necessary. Over 50,000 symptom checker assessments have been completed through the app.

Rachael Ellis, Chief Officer of the transformation team at Sandwell and West Birmingham CCG and lead on the West Midlands Integrated Urgent Care Alliance says:

“The Ask NHS app is a really useful alternative for patients who need to obtain urgent advice on their health. They can receive advice 24 hours a day wherever they are and without them having to wait for or attend a GP appointment or going to A&E unless this is really necessary. This reduces the demand on GPs and on A&E departments so that they can concentrate on helping people with more complex needs and saves patients time and money.”

“Feedback on the app has been extremely positive, with the majority of users finding it easy or extremely easy to download and register, the symptom checker easy or extremely easy to use and GP appointment booking or cancelling extremely easy.”

Feedback from patients has included:

“I really do like your Ask NHS app. It helped me when I was having an asthma attack and i could not talk and it rang 111 for me and they got the ambulance for me as well. This app can save people lives when they need it. Thank you for doing the app.” Vicky Barnsley from Erdington

“This is REALLY useful app as it helps you to minimise a trip to A&E or even more helpful is that the app can arrange a call back from an actual LIVE clinician!!” Tia Emerson from Walsall

“I found it quite useful and in my view it will help the NHS organise and prioritise who should be called first. Instead of waiting on the phone and putting pressure on the line they will call you back whenever they can. Perfect for me.” Nour Morjan from Telford

The app is free to download from both Google and iOS App Store (4 out 5 rating) and is in the Top 10 – Mobile Apps in UK under Medical Category.

The Ask NHS app has been commissioned by the West Midlands Integrated Urgent Care Alliance on behalf of all of the clinical commissioning groups in the West Midlands.