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New NHS Mobile Phone App to Give Patients Medical Advice

National Health Service (NHS) England has announced a smartphone app that provides medical advice to patients on their smartphones based on their reported symptoms. The app is set to be trialled in north London by NHS England.

The new NHS 111 app has been designed by tech firm Babylon working with doctors and is based on complex clinical algorithms. The app user can type their symptoms into the app and will be asked to answer to additional questions about their condition. The app provides advice whether the patient need to see a GP, go to hospital, visit a pharmacy or stay at home, based on the answers given by the patient.

As part of a major drive to digitise the NHS, the app will be offered to 1.2million patients in a 6-month trial starting at the end of this month. The app will be trialled in Barnet, Camden, Haringey, Enfield, and Islington for six months. During the trial period, the patients in the area will be able to continue using the NHS 111 helpline.

According to the NHS England, the app will provide an alternative mechanism of accessing integrated urgent care and connecting patients to clinicians. The new app is introduced to reduce the pressure on the overwhelmed NHS hospitals. The app will tell patient where to go and who to see, as close to their home as possible, so they can make the right choices.

The chair of British Medical Association (BMA) GP committee, Dr Chaand Nagpaul said that the basic problem with NHS 111 is how it slavishly trusts on algorithms and non-clinical staff without room for clinical interpretation in certain cases.

It was always important to increase the use of new technology to empower patients, it was also important to identify that patients in utmost need, such as older people, may not be able or motivated to use technology or smartphones, he added.

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