The NHS app, which aims to give patients safe and secure access to their GP record, will be available to all by December 2018, the Department of Health and Social Care has said.

The free app can be used to make GP appointments, order repeat prescriptions, help manage long-term conditions and access 111 online.

Patients can also use the app to state their preferences relating to data-sharing, organ donation and end-of-life care.

Juliet Bauer, chief digital officer at NHS England, said: “With more people than ever seeking to access information online or via apps, the NHS is raising its game on digital health technology.

“The new app will put the NHS into the pocket of everyone in England, providing secure access to trusted health information, your medical record, repeat prescriptions and GP appointments.

“We are empowering people to take control of their own healthcare and this app is just one step along the road, we are also developing an NHS Apps Library and putting free NHS wifi in GP surgeries and hospitals.”

Developed by NHS Digital and NHS England, the app will begin a beta testing phase in September 2018.

It will be available through the App Store or Google Play and once downloaded, users can sign up for an NHS account (see video demonstration below).

NHS Digital’s chief executive, Sarah Wilkinson, said: “We are working hard to deliver the Secretary of State’s vision for an NHS App which provides much easier access for individuals to key NHS services.

“I have no doubt that people will hugely welcome the ability to access self-help diagnostic tools, more easily book GP appointments, view test results and order repeat prescriptions, and tell us about their personal preferences with respect to organ donation, use of their data and other aspects of their care.

“We all know that demand for precious NHS services is escalating, and for a large portion of the population digital channels are a preferred means of access to data and services, so this is an opportunity to provide the easier access people want and relieve some burden from front-line providers.”

Health and Social Care Secretary, Jeremy Hunt, said the app was a “world-first,” which he said put “patients firmly in the driving seat and revolutionise the way we access health services”.

He added: “I want this innovation to mark the death-knell of the 8am scramble for GP appointments that infuriates so many patients.

“Technology has transformed everyday life when it comes to banking, travel and shopping. Health matters much more to all of us, and the prize of that same digital revolution in healthcare isn’t just convenience but lives improved, extended and saved.”

Hunt promised the NHS app at an NHS Expo event in September 2017, saying that every patient in England should be able to use an app to access their medical records and book a GP appointment by the end of 2018.

The NHS App has been welcomed though have argued that security must be a priority.

Helen Stokes-Lampard, chair of the Royal College of GPs, said: “Adequate safeguards must be in place to ensure the utmost protection of patients’ personal data, and considering that patient’s medical history will be accessible on individual’s mobile phones on the apps, we need to ensure that the security and reliability of the identity verification processes being used are of the highest international security standards.

“As with any scheme it must also be rigorously independently evaluated to ensure it is safe and cost-effective for the NHS and that is beneficial to both patients and practices and that it does not add a further burden of workload pressures to already overstretched GPs and their teams.”