From March 2023, people using the NHS app will be able to manage their hospital appointments online, see their medical records, get messages from GPs and book Covid jabs.
And by March 2024, the government hopes the app will be able to offer face-to-face video consultations in ‘virtual wards’, where patients are monitored remotely at home.
However Dennis Reed, of over-60s campaign group Silver Voices, fears millions of older people will be excluded from vital services as the whole of life is now being organised through apps and it is older people who need ready and easy access to the NHS most.
Website Homecare.co.uk reports that Silver Voices are being contacted by an increasing number of people worried about the number of public services and businesses requesting people to download apps in order to access services.
Dennis Reed said: “The need for apps is spreading across society and in many cases, it is impossible to access the same level of service unless you download the required app on a smartphone.
“We get particular complaints about banks, car parking, taxis, take-aways, trains, online retail, and leisure and entertainment bookings. There are often no alternatives publicised, or only in the small print, and you are made to feel like a dinosaur if you refuse to embrace the app culture.”
He added: “The drive towards apps excludes many older people and is clear age discrimination. Many older people do not own smart phones, or if they do, only use them for phone calls, not to run their lives. We are also rightly suspicious that apps are in effect marketing tools which track our choices and activities. Many of us also struggle with the keen eyesight and dexterity required to manipulate small screens.”
Silver Voices is worried that from next March the NHS app will be “the main gateway” to hospital and GP appointments and for contact with surgeries and NHS services.
Mr Reed also expressed concern that “no safeguards or alternatives for those without smart phones were included in the announcements” and said Silver Voices will “press the government to ensure that there are always non-digital alternatives for services, which are of the same quality and value, and just as accessible”.
Ministers claim the digitalisation of the NHS and social care sector will cost £2m, but save billions of pounds over the next 10 years.
If you are concerned about accessing NHS services in Calderdale see our NHS web page