• NHS App to be scaled back under NHSX
  • Long-term plan included commitment to significantly expand NHS App
  • Suppliers had considered legal action against NHS, HSJ understands
  • New NHSX CEO also hints at new national IT system for screening services

NHSX’s new chief executive has scrapped plans for an “all-singing and all-dancing” NHS App, despite the long-term plan saying the app would be the NHS’ digital “front door”.

In his first comments in the role, NHSX chief executive Matthew Gould said he would probably not be adding “many more” features to the NHS App.

In a blog, published on Friday afternoon, Mr Gould said: “I don’t want us to make the NHS App all-singing and all-dancing. In fact, I’m not sure I want to add many more features than it already has.”

He praised the “good work” on the NHS App to date but said it needed to remain “thin” rather than being the one place for NHS digital patient services.

“This means a clear approach – creating the platform for digital innovation and creating the standards that will allow that innovation to plug in safely. It means not competing against the market and resisting the urge to build or commission everything ourselves.”

Instead, some of the features of the app, such as NHS log-in, would be available for other app developers to plug into and use in their products, he said.

It comes after several digital health suppliers told HSJ they were considering taking legal action over plans for the NHS App, over what they considered an anti-competitive policy that unfairly disadvantaged their existing and future business in the NHS.

Mr Gould’s announcement is a sharp departure from the policy under NHS England, which handed control of NHS IT strategy over to the new central tech unit earlier this year.

The long-term plan, published in January, stated the NHS App would become the digital “front door” to the NHS for patients, expanding from current functions of booking GP appointments and repeat prescriptions to telephone and video consultations. The plan also stated the NHS App would be used by patients to register for clinical trials, access their summary care records and care plan, and even be integrated into clinical pathways.

In April, NHS England chief digital officer Tara Donnelly told HSJ the NHS App would be a “universal offer” and GPs would be required to provide patients with access.

However, several digital health app suppliers have raised concerns about the NHS App with HSJ in recent months, claiming it could push them out of the market.

HSJ has also been told there is a significant shortfall in tech funding for the current and next financial year and NHSX has been examining what existing IT projects can be cut or scaled back.

Mr Gould said NHSX would still be supporting the push to get all GPs connected to the NHS App by July, with about two-thirds already connected.

In other comments, he also said there would be some IT that would be built nationally, with likely candidates appointment booking and screening services, the latter of which has been beset by a string of scandals.

Mr Gould officially starts in his role in July but has already started working with NHSX.