Digital services provided by the NHS have seen a huge increase in usage throughout 2020 as a result of social distancing and the need to access healthcare remotely. Since the start of the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak, tech services provided by NHS Digital have seen unprecedented levels of usage by both patients and frontline staff. Some of the NHS technologies that have seen the biggest increases are listed below:
The NHS website is one of the biggest health-related websites in the world; usually attracting around 360m visits a year, which is around 30 million visits a month. It has been a key platform in the NHS’ response to the coronavirus pandemic and at the time of publishing had already had an estimated 803m visits this year. The number of users peaked in March 2020 with 120m estimated visits (the highest ever) and again in September 2020 with 81m estimated visits. There have been 160m direct visits to the coronavirus hub landing page since the end of January 2020.
The NHS App provides a simple and secure way for people to access a range of NHS services on their smartphone or tablet – from ordering repeat prescriptions to booking and cancelling GP appointments. On December 11 2019, there were 192,676 people using the NHS App. Fast forward to December 13 2020 and this figure had increased by 912% to 1,951,640 users. The number of repeat prescription requests made via the app increased by 495% - from 45,931 in January 2020 to 273,351 in November 2020, and the number of patient record views rose by 321% - from 258,404 in January 2020 to 1,089,615 in November 2020.
NHS Pathways is the triage software, which every year directs nearly 19m 111 and 999 triages to the most appropriate service available. In November 2020, the system was responsible for triaging 1,526,902 calls to 111 and 999, which is a 2.5% increase from November last year when it triaged 1,489,828 calls. This is an increase of 57,512 calls to 111 and decrease of 20,438 calls to 999.
Our busiest month of the year was August 2020 when we triaged 1,660,085 calls to 111 and 999, which is an increase of 17.7% from August 2019 (1,409,936).
NHS 111 online
NHS 111 online allows patients to get urgent healthcare online. It also helps to manage increasing demand on 111 telephone services. In the last six months from June to November 2020, 111 online recorded 3,569,917 sessions, which is a 257% increase on the same period in 2019 when there were 999,150 recorded sessions. 860,213 of all sessions during June to November 2020 were coronavirus related.
NHS login provides patients with a simple, secure and re-usable way to access multiple digital health and care services such as the NHS App. The number of NHS login accounts increased by 660% over the course of the year - from 238,638 at the start of January 2020 to 1,815,220 by mid-December.
The number of partners that have integrated with NHS login increased from seven to 27 during 2020 – an increase of 285%.
Electronic Prescription Service (EPS)
EPS allows prescribers to send prescriptions electronically to a pharmacy of the patient's choice (known as a nomination) – making the prescribing and dispensing process more efficient and convenient for both patients and staff. The number of EPS nominations increased by 25% in the last year - with numbers rising from 33.07m on 13 December 2019 to 41.34m on 11 December 2020.
To put this into context, this is a rise of 8.27m last year compared with 33.07m in the previous 10 years.
Microsoft Teams was made available to NHS organisations for free in March 2020 (for a limited time period) to counter the increased risks associated with coronavirus. NHS Digital finished rolling out the messaging tool to all NHSmail users in late March and between March 23 and December 13, it has been used to send 108,811,363 chat messages and to host 24,288,376 meetings. Our busiest day so far was Wednesday December 9 when there were 232,901 active users – compared with 60,937 active users on March 31.
Ben Davison NHS Digital’s Executive Director for Product Development said: “There’s no doubting that 2020 has been a challenging year for the NHS. Our teams have had to work harder and faster than ever to cope with the huge public demand for the many digital technologies across the NHS. “It’s this technology that has enabled doctors, nurses and other health professionals to deliver care remotely where possible – freeing up time for those patients who need face-to-face care. “It’s this technology that is keeping people well while they isolate with good information and advice, and the ability to manage things like prescriptions remotely. “We’re fully expecting the numbers using NHS tech to continue rising in 2021, as the general public continues to play a key role in helping to ease the burden on our fantastic frontline services.”