The integrated customer service platform beta launch in November will be a re-launch of NHS Choices.

The November release will include publication of the general practice high-level indicators in the NHS Choices accountability tool, designed to give people a comprehensive view of practice performance across a range of quality and clinical indicators.

NHS England’s planned patient platform, dubbed “the daughter of NHS Choices”, aims to be the new ‘digital front door’ to the NHS.

NHS England says it will be, a “new multi-channel information, feedback, transactions and participation customer service programme”, delivered through mobile apps, SMS, phone and online channels.

A report presented to the Informatics Services Commissioning Group’s July board meeting said, “the core of the ICSP will be its API, the ‘black box’ of quality and open data that websites, apps and other services can use to create interactive and useful content”.

The report said the November beta-launch was going to include; a symptom checker; GP appointment booking; a health apps library; web chat, ratings of services and ordering online repeat prescriptions.

However, NHS England’s director of patients and information Tim Kelsey told EHI the launch next month will initially be a re-launch of NHS Choices. The NHS Choices name will be kept for now, but is being reviewed.

"We’re looking at the re-platforming of Choices and building the open API. It will be quite similar but with quite a lot of engineering work going on under the bonnet,” he added.

“There’s been a long conversation about the speed with which we re-engineer NHS Choices in order to make it a very accessible open platform for third party products and services to be delivered through and that’s all sort of come through so we’re developing the plans for next year.

“But this is one of the things you don’t want to rush because I don’t want the market to start developing things that won’t fit so we need to get everything in alignment, which is what we are doing."

An NHS England spokesperson said that from January, “a series of products will be released on a cloud-based platform with a new look and feel”.

These will include a mobile-friendly urgent care finder that will help people to find the nearest open pharmacy, walk-in centre and A&E service, as well as health and symptom checkers across three condition types.

“February or March will see the launch of a tool guiding people through choosing a GP and signposting to GP online transactions. Additionally, a tailored email service for people caring for or living with dementia will be launched,” the spokesperson added.

“A robust new API will underpin the beta developments allowing industry to develop and innovate new products and features.”

Capita’s £60m three-year contract to run NHS Choices expired in March this year.

NHS Choices staff were transferred to the Health and Social Care Information Centre after the Cabinet Office blocked the renewal of the company’s contract.

The plan is for the various parts of the new NHS Choices to go back out to tender from April 2014.

A ‘Five Year Plan’ document on the National Programme for IT dated February 2012 and released to EHI under the Freedom of Information Act, shows that the planned spend on Choices between 2011 and 2016 is £112m – made up of a yearly spend of around £22m.

According to the July ISCG report, the new platform will ultimately include results from the Friends and Family Test, specialty consultant data and information from NHS England’s new patient feedback service Care Connect.

Also, several apps, such as a real-time A&E waiting time app, personal health records, a safety thermometer, test results, a shared-decision making app and integrated emergency response, among other things.

Read a full interview with Tim Kelsey in Insight.

Tim Kelsey, NHS England’s director of patients and information, will be one of the keynote speakers at EHI Live 2013, where he will be presenting in Theatre A from 3.30pm to 4pm on the first day of the show, Tuesday, 5 November.

EHI Live 2013 is more than a meeting, more than an exhibition. For anyone involved in the use of information in healthcare it’s a golden opportunity to update knowledge, get answers to questions, meet the experts and think about the future. This year’s conference is free for all visitors to attend.