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NHS ‘working through constraints’ to enable online pharmacy nominations on app

NHS Digital is “working through some technical constraints” to give patients the option of nominating an online pharmacy via the NHS App, its head of operations for the NHS App David Hodnett has said.

Currently, the NHS App allows users to select their nominated pharmacy by inputting their postcode, which generates a list of available bricks-and-mortar community pharmacies. At present, it is not possible to nominate an online pharmacy via the app.

However, NHS Digital is “taking steps at the moment” to offer that option, Mr Hodnett said at the Pharmacy Show in Birmingham on Monday (October 18).

“We are starting to see that there are thousands of people every single week using the app to change their nominated pharmacy and we've had some really positive feedback from users,” Mr Hodnett told delegates.


Over 60,000 pharmacy nominations per month


Since September 2020, the number of NHS App users has grown substantially from 1.5 million to over 18 million “as of today”, Mr Hodnett told delegates on Monday.

The option to nominate pharmacies was enabled in July 2020 and Mr Hodnett said pharmacy nominations are “holding steady at 60,000 a month”.

Meanwhile, the number of prescription orders completed on the app has risen by 370% since September 2020, from 233,830 requests to 1,099,223 by the end of September 2021, Mr Hodnett reported.

Responding to criticism during the session about the consequences high street community pharmacies may face following the addition of online pharmacies to the app, Mr Hodnett said: “We have to give everyone a choice for everything but equally consider the impact on NHS providers. Hearing the other side of the argument is not something we hear very often.”


NHS must “mitigate digital exclusion”


But speaking at the online event ‘Pharmacy in place: Addressing health inequalities through community pharmacy’ on Tuesday (October 19), Bola Owoloabi, director of health inequalities at NHS England and NHS Improvement (NHSE&I), said a “key strategic priority” for NHSE&I is “mitigating digital exclusion”.  

“I recognise that not everyone can come on a digital journey. Not everybody can afford the devices,” Dr Owoloabi said.

“And even if they could afford the devices, they may not be able to afford the data, or have the connectivity. They may live in a one-bedroom flat with several other people.”

She added: “But 90% of people are within 20 minutes of a community pharmacy. That is why being able to walk into a high street pharmacy is so important.”

Do you think the NHS App should include an option for patients to nominate online pharmacies?

Head to the C+D community to discuss about this!

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