Lincolnshire trust launches NHS App features for hospital appointments

By Jo Makosinski | Published: 7-Mar-2023

Northern Lincolnshire and Goole NHS Foundation Trust partners with Healthcare Communications to enable patients to see and manage GP referrals and hospital appointments digitally

Northern Lincolnshire and Goole NHS Foundation Trust (NLAG) has launched new NHS App features to transform the way patients access and manage their appointments.

The programme, known as Wayfinder, is part of a national strategy led by NHS England to improve the patient experience and help tackle waiting list backlogs – positioning the NHS App as the digital ‘front door’ to NHS services. 

The new features, which went live at the trust last month, enable patients to see and manage their GP referrals and hospital appointments and, in time, their letters and waiting times.

It is already proven that providing patients with more control over their appointment bookings and making it easier to book, cancel, or reschedule, leads to a reduction in missed appointments.

Reaping the rewards

The initiative is designed to be vendor-agnostic, with patient communication suppliers from all participating trusts working together, alongside NHS England, to provide a consistent service delivered through the NHS App.

Healthcare Communications, which has a long-standing relationship with NLAG, has worked closely with the national programme team to seamlessly integrate its patient portal into the NHS App for NLAG patients.  

Shauna McMahon, chief information officer at NLAG, said: “When we learnt that NHS England was planning to integrate patient communications into the NHS App in this way, we immediately put ourselves forward.

“We are committed to advancing our digital technology to enhance patient care, providing improved patient experience, and reaping the rewards through better operational efficiencies.

“This project will help us to build on the significant gains that we have already seen following the introduction of our Healthcare Communications digital patient engagement portal.” 

Improving efficiency

NLAG launched its patient portal in June 2021, which enabled the trust to send patient appointment letters digitally and provide SMS appointment reminders that enable patients to cancel or rebook their appointment.

Since its launch, 66% of patients have accessed the patient portal and 77% of patients have opted into SMS messaging services.

The trust has since sent more than 500,000 appointment letters digitally, which has saved £171,000 in printing and administration costs.

Additionally, SMS reminders have resulted in an immediate reduction in DNAs – from 10% to 7% – meaning that patient appointments can be reallocated and are not wasted. 

Jackie France, associate director for patient services at NLAG, said: “The number of NHS App users spiked dramatically during the COVID-19 pandemic, as many people downloaded the app to access their COVID Passport.

“This increase in users has made it a more-viable way to communicate with patients and we hope that those patients who may be reluctant to download our patient portal may be more accepting of accessing appointment information via an existing app on their phone.”

Kenny Bloxham, managing director of Healthcare Communications, adds: “We are delighted to work with NHS England, partner organisations, and the team at NLAG to expand the functionality of the NHS App and help more people to access the services that they need digitally.

“We are committed to working alongside other vendors to make this happen and are proud of what we have collectively achieved.

“We are now looking to support NLAG as we expand the reach of the digital communications provided via the NHS App.”    

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