We hope the Government reconsiders its decision

We are delighted that the Government has accepted most of the recommendations from the Health and Social Care Select Committee. However, we are surprised by their decision to reject what we consider a straightforward recommendation – introducing an accreditation scheme for third-party healthcare apps verified by the NHS.

This is a crucial step that could significantly benefit the NHS and people’s health, and it’s something that could be easily put into practice.

The demand for these healthcare technologies is clear. A significant 68% of people express their desire to use an NHS-verified app as part of their healthcare, and a remarkable 93% of health and care professionals believe in the potential of health apps to have a positive impact.

Moreover, countless technologies are readily available to meet this demand, thanks to significant investments from the NHS, clinicians, and the digital health industry.

To ensure that these apps maintain high standards in clinical, privacy, security, and usability aspects, much like medicines, we require a quality-check scheme. The NHS Digital Technology Assessment Criteria already serves this purpose.

To ensure safe distribution, continuous assessment, and a unified platform for healthcare professionals to safely prescribe these apps to patients, ORCHA, founded by clinicians and supported by the NHS National Innovator Accelerator Programme, possesses the necessary technology. We have assessed 24,000 technologies to date, providing Health App Libraries for the public and Digital Health Formularies for professionals in 70% of regions.

All the necessary components are in place, yet without government support, they remain disconnected. The crucial element of trust that would come with a central accreditation scheme is currently missing.

So, what’s the impact of this decision?

Well, despite the lack of UK regulation or NHS involvement, half of the UK public already chooses to use health apps. Our assessments have revealed that 80% of apps available in app stores fall short of quality standards, putting the UK public at risk.

Without a centralised system, app assessment and distribution are constrained, fragmented, and duplicated. Consequently, the NHS leverages digital health in only a small fraction of its potential applications.

For instance, just 2% of individuals with COPD currently use health apps, despite clinical studies confirming that the right apps can enhance outcomes and reduce the need for frequent medical appointments. Imagine the potential relief on our healthcare system during the Winter Pressures if primary care had access to the right set of digital tools.

In England, 7.19 million people are waiting for routine operations like hip or knee replacements. Integrating digital health into this pathway could significantly reduce deterioration while awaiting surgery, optimise health, and improve recovery outcomes.

This presents a substantial opportunity to enhance efficiency in prevention, urgent care, treatment, and discharge processes.

While it’s promising that the Government plans to introduce a new app, it’s important to recognize that a single app cannot cater to the diverse healthcare needs of our population. After all, there are 70,000 medicines listed in the BNF. Why should we assume that one app can meet everyone’s needs?

The NHS is under immense pressure, and Digital Health presents a practical and effective solution. However, for it to reach its full potential, a centralised system is essential.

We sincerely hope that the Government will reconsider its decision.