NHS Digital to offer single identity service by autumn 2017

Organisation says GOV.UK Verify is one of  ‘a number’ of options being considered

NHS to offer patients a single, secure identity scheme by September – Photo credit: Flickr, Oliver Tacke, CC BY 2.0

NHS Digital has said it will have a single, secure identity for patients across health and care services by the end of September 2017.

The plan is set out in the minutes from the organisation’s most recent board meeting, which was held on 28 March.

These set out NHS Digital’s business plan for 2017-18, and includes work to improve patient engagement and self-care, with the aim being to “help patients to take control of their own health and care and reduce the pressure on frontline services”.

It said that NHS Digital would provide a single, secure citizen identity service for all members of the public to use across all health and care services by 30 September 2017.

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The move comes as the Government Digital Service is working to increase the number of users on its own flagship identity assurance scheme, GOV.UK Verify, from around 1.3 million to 25 million.

However, NHS Digital indicated that, although Verify was an option, it had not yet decided which authentication service it would use for its citizen identity scheme.

A spokeswoman for the organisation said: “We are exploring a number of strategic options for authentication and identity verification for digital health services, including consideration of existing services such as Patient Online and GOV.UK Verify.

“We are taking an incremental approach and we will be publishing updates as we progress through this work.”

The government’s efforts to boost the number of people using Verify will not be possible without the buy-in of big departments, such as HMRC and the Department for Work and Pensions, but there has been a historic lack of interest from these departments.

And if the NHS chooses not to use Verify it will likely be seen as another blow to GDS’ efforts, which are coming under intense scrutiny, with a recent report from the National Audit Office saying that GDS had “lost focus on the longer term strategic case” for the programme.

“Verify presents a strategic opportunity to improve the way that personal data is used across government enabling better use of data, based on a single secure view of identity. But this strategic case has not been sufficiently developed, tested and communicated,” the report said.

Elsewhere in NHS Digital’s board meeting minutes are other plans to make better use of technology across the NHS, many of which were also set out in NHS England’s update to its Five Year Forward View, published last week.

These include the update of NHS Choices – which is to become NHS.UK – offering more WiFi access across the NHS for use by both clinicians and patients, and increasing the use of health apps and wearable technologies.

In addition, the paper pointed to work being done to widen digital participation – NHS Digital recently extended a scheme that aims to help communities develop the skills that will help them use digital health and care service.

That scheme is being run in collaboration with the Good Things Foundation, and is the second such programme the pair have worked on – the first running from 2013 to 2016 – and will recruit 20 pathfinder centres to design services and resources that other organisations can use.


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