• Led by Vocare: Staffordshire Doctors Urgent Care NHS 111, in partnership with Staffordshires and West Midlands Clinical Commissioning Groups, Advanced Health and Care Ltd and Sensely.
  • Pilot of an innovative mobile app across Staffordshire and the West Midlands; a patient population of over five million.  
  • Aimed to put patients in control of their health and reduce pressure on NHS resources.
  • Project began in September 2016. 

There are over 100 million requests within the NHS for urgent care each year. Emergency departments, GP surgeries and ambulance services are struggling to cope. Innovative solutions are needed to deal with public expectations for 24/7 care, together with an ageing population with increasingly complex health care needs.

This project involved using digital mobile technology to relieve pressure on NHS resources by enabling more effective self-care, and more appropriate and timely use of primary and urgent care services.

A free mobile phone app was developed – ‘Ask NHS’ – for patients to use before contacting NHS 111, urgent care services or primary care. It provides access to health information to support people in making health and care choices. 

The patient population of Staffordshire and the West Midlands were given access to the NHS 24/7 through the app. The app features a virtual nurse that works using voice recognition software and button presses. Patients can assess their symptoms, look up self-care information and book or cancel GP appointments.

The app now has more than 60,000 users and has been established as one of four digital access points supporting NHS 111.

Patients have fed back that they find the app easy to use, and that they particularly like the dialogue with the virtual nurse. Many patients said they would use the app regularly and that they would recommend it to others. 

‘Ask NHS’ is continuing to evolve, based on feedback from users, clinicians, commissioners and providers. Discussions are ongoing with NHS England, with the aim of coordinating how patients access health information, find out about services available, and how they interact with their GP and the 111 team.

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