GPs will ‘prescribe’ health and fitness apps

Family doctors will “prescribe” patients with smartphone applications to help them improve their health and lifestyle, as part of a new Government strategy.

The plans for an “NHS app store” would mean that approved applications would be kitemarked by the health service, and might be provided free to those trying to improve their health.

Under the initiative, overweight patients might be recommended apps which track their diet and exercise, and provide goals, and virtual coaching, while those suffering from health conditions such as diabetes could use the apps to monitor blood sugar.

Details will be announced later this week as part of a strategy, Personalised Health and Care 2020 about how to tailor information for patients’ needs.

Tim Kelsey, NHS England’s national director of patients and information, said the best technology developers would be able to get their health apps branded with the NHS logo, and in some cases, could be prescribed by GPs.

Mr Kelsey said the “kite marking” would mean app developers could “take advantage of the trust people have in the NHS brand” as long as they met standards set by the health service.

Apps currently being used by parts of the health service include systems which give parents access to their children’s immunisation record, booking of GP appointments and ones for older people to book in carer visits.

Other applications in use include a free Quit Smoking app, which provides daily support messages for one month, tips and a real-time counter displays the minutes, hours and days a person has been smoke-free, and the amount of money saved.

Public health campaigns to improve people to lose weight and exercise more have also offered apps with recipes to encourage families to have their “five a day” of fruit and vegetables, while an NHS drinks tracker calculates drink units and provides personalised feedback.

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