A popular NHS-developed healthcare signposting app and website is back online after it was suspended over clinical assurance concerns.
According to an initial report by HSJ, the decision to suspend the service was taken after concerns about its compliance with clinical assurance regulations were raised at NHS England. But investigation by Digital Health News indicates the picture was more complex, pointing to the continuing challenges of accrediting health apps to clear standards.
A spokesperson for NEL CSU said: “We can confirm that the service provided by Health Help Now has now been restored.”
“This follows notification by NHS Digital that we have demonstrated the app fully complies with the recommended NHS England clinical safety standard for Health ICT Systems (SCCI0129).”
“We are continuing to work towards accreditation for the national App Developer Console, and we are confident Health Help Now will soon achieve this. ”
The spokesperson said that during the temporary suspension of service, “our team made resolving this a top priority and we worked closely with our customers and their communities to minimise any disruption.”
The service is primarily used by CCGs in London and surrounding counties.
Following initial concerns , a spokesperson from the NHS England told Digital Health News that, as soon as it became aware of issues with the “locally-developed product”, they were raised with the CSU and with the CCGs and it was ensured the service provided through the app was suspended.
“The responsible local health organisations, NHS Digital and app developers will be working to check and ensure their product matches the relevant national standards”, an NHS England spokesperson told Digital Health News post suspension.
Health Help Now is designed to signpost people to relevant local health services. It draws on core information from NHS nhsChoices and the 111 National Directory of Services.
While it does not offer a personalised symptom checker, it does offer “symptoms and advice articles”.
In a statement, the CSU reported the decision to suspend had been taken following “ongoing regular internal reviews” and “while further development takes place”.
A spokesperson said the suspension was linked to ensuring compliance with NHS Digital’s criteria for clinical risk management in health IT systems. The CSU’s longer-term aim is to see the product included as part of the NHS Apps Library.
Launched in April 2017, the library is intended to present users with a suite of NHS-endorsed applications. It remains in semi-permanent beta, with only one application currently listed as NHS Approved and two as being tested.
The organisation said the app and website had been used half a million times with no incidents.
Health Help Now was launched in 2013 and is now used by 28 CCGs. The CSU said customers would be credited for the suspension.