The target date for NHS Digital’s citizen identity project has been announced in the organisation’s board papers.
The latest NHS Digital board papers said the citizen identity service will be completed by 30 September this year.
The papers say the project is “providing a single, secure identity for each member of the public, across all health and care services”.
An NHS Digital spokeswoman said a statement to Digital Health News that a number of options were being explored for “authentication and identity verification for digital health services, including consideration of existing services such as Patient Online and GOV.UK Verify”.
The spokeswoman added: “We are taking an incremental approach and we will be publishing updates as we progress through this work.”
GOV.UK Verify went live in May 2016 as a single, secure way for people to verify their identity while using online government services, such as updating their driver’s licence or applying for a tax refund.
Patient Online is the NHS England initiative to offer online digital patient services, such as ordering prescriptions refills online, booking appointments, accessing test results or having email or video consultations with their GP or nurse.
The NHS Digital board papers said the citizen identity programme would only go live in “selected” Personalised Health and Care 2020 programmes, but the spokeswoman would not confirm which these strands were.
In August last year, the interim director of GOV.UK Verify, Jess McEvoy, raised the possibility of rolling out the service across the NHS in a blog post.
McEvoy said the Government Digital Service was “looking at the viability of offering GOV.UK Verify at scale to other public bodies” including the NHS.
GOV.UK Verify uses certified companies, such as Royal Mail and Experian, rather than the government, to verify an individual’s online identity. This verification is then relayed to the relevant government service, which provides the verified user with access.
The project’s deployment was repeated delayed and was criticised in a 2015 research paper as suffering from “severe privacy and security problems”.
Digital Health News reported that NHS Liverpool Clinical Commissioning Group was trialling whether GOV.UK Verify could work in the NHS in September last year, but the CCG did not respond to questions by the time of publication.
A secure online identity system is an important foundation for the National Information Board’s ‘Personalised Health and Care 2020’ strategy, which includes giving patients a single online access point to their health and social care records and services through a new web interface, NHS.uk.
Privacy group, Medconfidential, responded to the announcement in an article on its website that addressed the underlying principles of a login infrastructure.
The post said: “Whatever system is used must accommodate and enable patients who wish to keep some aspects of their treatment entirely disconnected from other aspects”.