A Nottingham mum shares her experience of how the NHS App is improving her son's care and changing her life for the better
There's not a lot more exciting - and scary - than bringing your new baby home from hospital.
But for Nottingham mum Chitra Acharya, that special moment was put on hold for 16 months as her son Avy was born in a good condition but later developed a host of complex medical needs."His first birthday, his first Christmas, all in hospital," explained Chitra. "It was really tough."
Avy, who is now nine years old, still requires long stays in hospital, as well as frequent medical appointments at clinics and GP surgeries. Then, there are outpatient hospital visits to neurology, gastroenterology, audiology and other departments and services.
It can be hard juggling the daily routine, but a new app being rolled out by the NHS and social care over the next 12-18 months is about to make Chitra's life more manageable.
The first step in the ambitious plans from the NHS is the roll out of the national NHS App across all GP practices in Nottingham and Nottinghamshire. The app allows people to order repeat prescriptions, get advice, book a GP appointment and view their GP medical records, as well as providing a directory of services.
Alexis Farrow, Head of Transformation and Strategy for Connected Nottinghamshire, the digital programme which works across all health and care organisations in Nottingham and Nottinghamshire, says “I’m delighted that our patients can now enjoy the full range of services that the national NHS App has to offer.”
“This is a significant step in modernising NHS services, and should make life easier for patients and for practices, with the ability to book and manage appointments online, order repeat prescriptions, view your medical history and access 111 Online, among other services.
“But is this enough? After extensive research and feedback on what matters to our population, our ambitions are much bigger than this and we have plans to enhance the functionality of the NHS App through additional local digital services.
“We understand that people want a single App to manage all their health and care needs, across all health and care settings, and over the next 12-18 months will be working very hard to develop these enhancements based on what matters to local people.”
"When the app is fully rolled out it will be life-changing," said Chitra, 40. "At the moment I can be taking Avy to an appointment three or four times a week. I don't drive so have to spend a lot of money on a wheelchair-accessible taxi, or ask my husband to take time off work to take us there."
Avy has to take 15 different medicines a day, at different times, which are prescribed by hospital consultants and dispensed by three different pharmacies across the city.
Chitra, a computer scientist, said: "Our GP surgery is not aware of all the medicines our son is prescribed by various hospital consultants. All the three pharmacies do not have a list of all the medicines Avy is prescribed and the hospital consultants are not aware of the medicines prescribed by other hospital consultants. This has led to drug interactions and duplication of medicines and I spend a lot of time on phone calls explaining to one department what another department is giving him. If I had all this information available, to show the various professionals involved in Avy’s care, in one app it would make my life so much easier."
Chitra is also faced with the challenge every time Avy is admitted to hospital either to A&E or to ICU that his patient records do not have his complete medical history, his list of medicines, test results and letters from clinics.
"Due to poor communication between hospital and community, every time there is a change in the dose of the medication or a new medication is introduced, I have to call the GP surgery or hospital consultants and explain all the changes to them," said Chitra.
Chitra is eagerly awaiting the freedom that the local enhancement to the NHS app will bring her in the near future.
"The app will enable me to see all the relevant information and records about our son's health and social care needs," she said. "We would have a holistic picture and can contribute to decisions about our son's care, as well as benefiting from easy and manageable interactions with health and care providers which would save time, effort and travel."
She said the app would also mean she would be able to share information with health professionals so they would be able to see relevant information about Avy's health and care needs so that he always receives the best care without his parents having to repeat the information over and over again.
"There would also be easy to access and understandable information about our son's condition and his care, so that we can stay informed about his condition and manage it well," she said. "I can't wait to be able to use the app. I've been involved in the planning of it since the beginning because I'm a volunteer for Connected Nottinghamshire, and I know it will change our lives."
Dr Sonali Kinra is a GP partner at Hucknall Road Medical Centre, which launched the national version of the App at the beginning of March.
"We sent out lots of text messages about it and have already got over 200 people signed up," she said. "I've got it in my own doctors now too, and I'm finding it very straightforward to use.
"We hope the app will reduce the workload on reception staff, encouraging people to take ownership of their own health because they'll be able to access test results, book appointments and repeat prescriptions, which means reception staff will have more time to focus on the people who need to come in to see us."