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Oscar Williams

News editor

Jeremy Hunt: patients will be able to access medical records through an app by 2018

Jeremy Hunt will promise that every patient in England will be able to access their medical records and book an appointment with a GP via an app by the end of 2018.

The health secretary is expected to unveil an ambitious digital transformation programme at the Health and Care Innovation Expo tomorrow, in a bid to usher in a “decade of patient power”.

“If the NHS is going to be the safest, highest quality healthcare system in the world we need to do technology better,” Hunt will say.

The national rollout of the app, which also allows patients to order repeat prescriptions and access NHS 111, will follow an online trial underway in South East London.

It comes as the NHS is facing mounting pressure over its failure to keep pace with technological advancements.

It remains the world’s biggest buyer of fax machines, prompting doctors to turn to messagings apps such as WhatsApp to send patient scans. The practice has raised confidentiality concerns.

The Times reported on Saturday that the NHS also uses one in ten of the world’s pagers, with 130,000 devices in circulation in hospitals across the country.

Some hospitals, such as the Royal Free, are taking steps to embrace mobile technology to transform how they care for patients.

The north London hospital has partnered with Google DeepMind to create an app to alert doctors if patients’ conditions deteriorate.

The partnership drew criticism from the Information Commissioner’s Office because Royal Free had handed DeepMind 1.6 million patients’ medical data without their consent.

When the service was launched last year, Sir David Sloman, chief executive of the Royal Free, said: “It’s amazing really that the technology that doctors have at home is better than what they use at work. They are still using pagers. How on earth can you react as fast as you need to with systems like that?”