Technology can help you stay active and healthy, manage long-term conditions, book appointments and order prescriptions. This page covers health apps, NHS services and other ways you can manage your health online.
You can download applications (apps) to your smartphone or tablet to help manage your health and wellbeing.
Health apps can help you to:
- track and monitor your symptoms
- stay active and healthy
- find online communities for people with similar conditions
- book appointments and order repeat prescriptions
- set medication reminders
- keep in touch with healthcare staff.
You can find apps for specific conditions – like dementia, diabetes and cancer – and for general healthy living.
Health apps cannot diagnose you. They'll only be able to help with day-to-day management of your health and wellbeing, or existing conditions. If you're worried about your health, talk to your doctor.
Make sure you use apps that have reliable information, such as those on the NHS website. You could also visit Digital Unite for their recommended health apps.
How to use a health app
To use any health app, you'll usually need to:
- download it to your tablet or smartphone – to learn how to do this, visit Starting on the internet
- create an account within the app with a username and password.
For instructions on how to use the app, it's best to check the website of the specific app you download.
Using the NHS app
The NHS runs its own app which lets you access NHS services through your smartphone or tablet, or on a web browser. You may be able to use it to:
- book appointments and order repeat prescriptions
- read health information from the NHS website
- view your health record and NHS number
- register an organ donor decision
- access services on behalf of someone else
- message your GP or other health professional
- view and manage care plans.
Some of these services depend on your GP or hospital enabling them, so would only appear in the NHS app if they have done so. You may wish to talk to them if there are certain app services you'd like to use.
Visit the NHS website for a full list of what the NHS app offers.
How to start using the NHS app
To get started on the NHS app, you'll need to:
- set up your NHS login – visit their help centre for instructions
- download the app from the Apple app store or Google play store. Or access it using a web browser on your laptop or computer
- log into the app using your NHS login details.
Once you've set up the app, you should be able to access available services. Visit the NHS website for guidance on using their app.
Using the NHS app for someone else
If you need to use the NHS app on behalf of someone else, you'll both need to be registered at the same GP. Your GP will need to set up proxy access for you, so you can link your NHS app profiles. Speak to your GP surgery or see the NHS website for more on linked profiles.
Booking appointments online
Many GP surgeries now let you book appointments online. For example, they may use the NHS app or another app to let you book appointments. Or they may use an online system which you log into through a web browser. Talk to your GP surgery to find out what they provide.
If you need to see a specialist, you may be referred to them through the NHS e-referral service. This allows you to choose from a shortlist of hospitals that provide the treatment you need and manage your appointment booking easily.
Your GP will give you an appointment request letter. You can then book your appointment online, by phone or through the NHS app. Your GP can also book it while you're at the surgery. See the NHS website for more information on specialist referrals.
Online and video consultations
Your GP surgery may now offer online and video consultations for some appointments, rather than face to face. This means you speak to your GP on the phone or have a video call with them. Find out more about GP online consultations.
Coronavirus (COVID-19) changes
During the coronavirus pandemic, you'll only be asked to go into the surgery if you really need to. You may be offered a phone or video consultation instead. Read more about getting medical help during coronavirus.
Most prescriptions you get on the NHS are now processed electronically. You can either:
- nominate a pharmacy for all your prescriptions – your prescriptions will be sent to them automatically, so you can collect them without needing a paper prescription
- choose a pharmacy each time you get a prescription – you'll usually get a paper copy to take to any pharmacy. This has a barcode so they can download the electronic prescription.
If you are taking medication on a regular basis, you will be able to order further medication when you are close to running out. Visit the NHS website for more on electronic prescriptions.
Ordering repeat prescriptions online
You may be able to use the NHS app, the NHS repeat prescription ordering service or some other apps to view and order your repeat prescription.
If you choose an app or website to use, most will ask you to create an account with a username and password. For more information, ask your GP or pharmacist, or visit the NHS website to learn how to order repeat prescriptions online.
Buying medicines and health services online
You can buy medicines online but be careful if you’re considering it. Speak to your GP or other health professionals first.
If you do decide to buy, make sure the seller is based in the UK and registered with the General Pharmaceutical Council.
You should also check the qualifications of anyone who advertises their services as a therapist or medical practitioner. They should be registered in the UK.
Whether you're buying medication or services, make sure you follow general tips to stay safe and shop securely. See our pages on internet safety and shopping online.
Finding health information online
There’s a wealth of medical information on the internet, but since anyone can post online, you need to separate fact from opinion.
To make sure you can trust the information you’re reading, you can:
- use a reliable source – for example, the NHS website
- look for the PIF tick or similar on charities and other websites – this is the quality mark for health and care information in the UK
- review what you’re reading – for example, who’s written it, when it was last updated, if it’s backed up with evidence and how well written it is.
For more advice, read How to find reliable health information online.
If you read something online that makes you think you may have a certain condition, talk to your GP before you take any action.
If you have a long-term health condition, you may be able to use technology to help you manage your care. Telehealth includes specialist devices, apps or even text message systems which can monitor your condition or remind you to do health checks.
Telehealth may help your GP or other healthcare specialists keep track of your condition and make changes to treatment as needed. It can also mean you don’t need to visit them so often.
For more information, read our page Technology to keep you safe at home.
Visit Digital Unite for how-to guides on using health apps, the NHS website and more.
Learn My Way have free online courses and resources to teach you how to manage your health online.