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GPs 'to prescribe health apps'

By Michelle Roberts
Health reporter, BBC News

image captionApps can help patients keep a check on their health

GPs could soon offer their patients free smartphone apps to help with managing health conditions.

The Department of Health says its initiative is the "next step" in the drive to give patients more control over their own health.

The apps could help diabetics keep a check on their blood sugar and patients monitor their own blood pressure.

Details of how this will work will be in the government's Information Strategy expected this Spring.

It may be that GPs will be able to prescribe apps that would normally involve a cost to the individual to buy.

At an event showcasing the best ideas for new and existing health smartphone apps, the Health Secretary Andrew Lansley said: "So many people use apps every day to keep up with their friends, with the news, find out when the next bus will turn up or which train to catch.

"I want to make using apps to track blood pressure, to find the nearest source of support when you need it and to get practical help in staying healthy the norm.

"Information about your health is a service - just like the GP surgeries, Walk-in Centres and hospitals that millions of people access every week. With more information at their fingertips, patients can truly be in the driving seat.

"Innovation and technology can revolutionise the health service, and we are looking at how the NHS can use these apps for the benefit of patients, including how GPs could offer them for free."

One app that has already been trialled by GPs and community nurses as well as hospitals, including Great Ormond Street, is called Patients Know Best.

This enables each patient to get all their records from all their clinicians and controls who gets access to them.

Using the app, patients can have online consultations with any member of their clinical team, receive automated explanations of their results, and work with clinicians for a personalised care plan.

Last summer the Department of Health invited people to name their favourite health apps.

It received nearly 500 entries and over 12,600 votes and comments.

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