NHS App to allow biometric login

Newly released code allows developers to embed additional security features

Credit: Kārlis Dambrāns/CC BY 2.0

Citizens will now be able to access the NHS App using face- or fingerprint-recognition technology.

NHS Digital has released two pieces of open-source code that will allow software developers to build biometric-login capability into their applications. The intention is that the new code could make the login process for NHS digital services and other approved apps more secure.

The code can be included in the use of the NHS login platform – an identity-verification service especially developed to secure the NHS app. 

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Earlier this year, the tool was also opened up for use by a select band of commercial partners and other parts of the NHS. Other providers of digital healthcare services are now being invited to express their interest in integrating their tools with NHS login.

Chris Fleming, delivery director at NHS Digital, said that the inclusion of biometric capability in the tool would benefit developers and, ultimately, users.

“The NHS App team has open sourced code which will help those using NHS login as an identity and authentication provider to confirm people’s identity using fingerprint and facial recognition,” he said. “We received great feedback from login users as it sped up the process considerably for them, and we wanted others to benefit from the work. The team has released two libraries for developers.”

After more than a year in development, the NHS App was released in late 2018. It allows users to check symptoms, book or cancel GP appointments, order repeat prescriptions, view medical records, and register to donate organs. Patients can also use the app to specify preferences for how the NHS uses their data.

Significant further development beyond this functionality by the NHS itself appears unlikely. In June, the recently appointed chief executive of NHSX, Matthew Gould, said that he did not want “to make the NHS app all-singing and all-dancing”, and that the focus should be on “letting other people innovate” on top of what has already been developed”.

Some 95% of GP surgeries across England are already connected to the app, according to the NHS. Registration is available to everyone aged 13 and over who is registered with a doctor.


Sam Trendall

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