While speaking at the Giant Health 2018 medical technology conference in London, the UK Health Secretary’s chief technology advisor, Hadley Beeman, answered questions from sceptical audience members about privacy issues surrounding the NHS App, set to be launched in December.

Beeman was stepping in for Matt Hancock at the event after he had to cancel his speech at the last minute due to other obligations. An audience member who works in the healthcare industry questioned Beeman about any issues with the NHS App keeping patient data private and whether the NHS had received any feedback before the app is launched next month.

Beeman appeared to imply that it will be up to NHS App users to decide which parts of the information they input into the app are kept private, but this has not yet been set in stone.

“We are getting loads of feedback and we are integrating according to that feedback,” Beeman said. “Permissions and consent from the patient is a whole different discussion and we can potentially use the app as a vehicle to potentially ask for consent but we need to feel our way through what is the right way to approach that and at this point it will probably be on a case-by-case basis. We’ll have to develop from there.”

The talk’s chair, Professor Shafi Ahmed, went on to reassure audience members that the NHS App is set to be a success, adding: “My feedback for the NHS App is that I’m really happy with it. I’ve been to 30 countries over the last three years advising governments and one thing they’re really jealous about is the NHS App.

“They all say ‘how did you do this’, ‘how did you make it work?’, ‘how is it such a success?’. So I would actually congratulate the government on creating something that other countries are desperate for, an app across the nation that will connect us all. I think we should be applauding that.”

The NHS App is designed to provide a simple and secure way for patients to access a range of healthcare services on their smartphone or tablet. It will be rolled out gradually across England from December 2018 to patients aged 16 and over.

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