The NHS is set to make a fresh push to encourage GPs to prescribe the use of apps and other digital tools in a key strategy document next week, according to an NHS England national director.

Tim Kelsey, the body’s national director for patients and information, said the proposals, including an “NHS app store”, would be laid out in a strategy document called Personalising Health and Care 2020.

Tim Kelsey

Tim kelsey said a kitemarking scheme would give patients ‘a degree of assurance’ about digital health products

Speaking at the EHI Live 2014 conference in Birmingham today, he said NHS England would launch a “voluntary kitemark scheme” – a quality standard for apps – although he indicated plans were not yet finalised.

Personalising Health and Care 2020 will set out a framework strategy for the new National Information Board, the group in charge of the NHS’s technology and information strategy. It includes representatives from the Department of Health, NHS England and the Health and Social Care Information Centre.  

Mr Kelsey said: “We want to provide GPs, citizens [and] carers with some level of reassurance… that the NHS has taken a view of a particular digital tool or service and is able to endorse it

“We are going to introduce a kitemarking scheme, which we think will really help developers to take advantage of the trust that people have in the NHS [and] in return [they will] voluntarily submit to a degree of assurance, not an endlessly bureaucratic process, but just something that will give people confidence.”

Accredited apps will “get access to NHS Choices, will be able to carry the NHS brand and will in some circumstances also be able to be prescribed by GPs”, Mr Kelsey said. It would represent “a really vigorous and robust app store for the NHS and for health as well”, he said.

The app store proposal is being developed by the National Information Board, and further details will be set out in the framework strategy, which is due to be published next week.

The idea of accredited apps was included in the NHS Five Year Forward View, published by NHS England last month.

The document said there would be “an expanding set of NHS accredited health apps that patients will be able to use to organise and manage their own health and care; and the development of partnerships with the voluntary sector and industry”.

Plans for NHS accredited apps were also outlined in the 2012 Department of Health paper, The power of information: Putting all of us in control of the health and care information we need.

The paper said: “To accelerate development and use of innovative information based services – including mobile apps – for the benefit of people, professionals and organisations, a partnership with industry and with health and care providers will now step up active work towards the introduction, publication and adoption, by no later than 2015, of interface standards.”