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homeless man on street waiting for vaccine

BY Leo Hynett


NHS App: More Than Just a Vaccine Passport

Exploring the updated NHS App as it attracts millions of new users.

MAY 27  2021


The NHS App now has 4.8 million registered users, 1.3million of which have started using the app since it was announced earlier this month that it would be used for Covid-19 vaccine passports. This is not the same app we have all been using to check into venues and enter test results, it’s a second NHS app with far broader applications.


More than just a passport

This app goes far beyond simply being a vaccine passport, but many people are only just discovering how much it can actually do. Repeat prescriptions, appointment bookings, and viewing personal medical records can all be done via the NHS App.

People downloading the app for vaccine passport purposes has lead to a general boost in users: between May 17 and 20 more than 8,000 appointments were booked through the NHS App, double the daily average of online bookings for April. This is an extremely positive shift in patient behaviour as it frees up receptionists at practices to answer other potentially more urgent calls.


Organ donation decision

In 2020 organ donation became an opt out system, meaning that everyone is automatically considered a potential organ donor unless they explicitly choose to be removed from the registry or are excluded for other religious or medical reasons. You used to have to opt in to be a donor, but this was changed when far fewer people were actually registered to be donors than reported they were happy to do so. The recent uptick in users of the NHS App had lead to more people registering their organ donation choices:

‘Between May 17 and 20 more than 11,000 people registered an organ donor preference using the app, with a daily average of 2,870. It marks a ten-fold increase on the number of people registering an organ donation preference in April which averaged about 300 per day.’

Families are still consulted about organ donation under the opt out system, so it is
important for people to register their wishes so that their family knows they are honouring their choice and their planned donation goes ahead.

Get more from your GP surgery

Many GP surgeries and hospitals offer additional services that can be accessed through the NHS App. Depending on your practice you may be able to:

  • Message health professionals online or message your GP surgery directly.
  • Fill out online consultation forms and get a reply from your GP or a health professional.
  • View any links or information sheets your GP wishes to share with you.
  • View any appointments you have with hospitals or other specialist NHS services outside of your practice.

If you registered as a carer with your GP you may also be able to access health services on the behalf of the person you care for.

Security & accessibility

In order to use the app to its full potential, users will need to prove their identity are – this is done thorough a series of security questions such as contact details, date of birth, full name, address, and NHS number (if users don’t know the latter, answering other additional questions allows them past this stage). Once an account is set up, device biometrics can then be used to access the app in future. Facial recognition cannot be used for this as that is classed as a convenience feature as opposed to a security one.

The app has been designed to be accessible for as many people as possible. On both iOS and Android the NHS App is compatible with the accessibility settings of the operating systems. Any in app text has been geared towards the reading age of a 9 or 11 year old. Scanned documents that are on your record as attachments may not be accessible due to the format, but accompanying text aims to convey all the necessary information from scans.


User Data

Confidential patient information is used to inform personal care, but it is also used to inform future NHS plans and can be used in research:

‘To help the NHS respond to coronavirus, your information may be used for coronavirus research purposes even if you have chosen not to share it. Any information used will be shared appropriately and lawfully.’

Users can choose whether they want their data to be used in research and planning from within the NHS App and can opt out of this at any time. The NHS have set out to debunk some recent social media posts about this data sharing practice, clarifying that data is never sold or shared with marketing or insurance companies and that there is no time limit to opt out of this.

The NHS App follows the same GDPR regulations as usual storage of medical records. It is important that users set strong passwords to do their part of keeping their medical records safe and keep contact details up to date.


The NHS App is receiving a lot of publicity at the moment due to the addition of covid passports, but it can do so much more than that. From ordering prescriptions to checking vaccination histories, the NHS App will be extremely useful throughout the rest of the pandemic and beyond.



About the Author: Leo Hynett

Leo Hynett is a contributing Features Writer, with a particular interest in Culture, the Arts and LGBTQ+ Politics.

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