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BACKGROUND: Technological advances have led to the use of patient portals that give people digital access to their personal health information. The NHS App was launched in January 2019 as a 'front door' to digitally enabled health services. AIM: To evaluate patterns of uptake of the NHS App, subgroup differences in registration, and the impact of COVID-19. DESIGN AND SETTING: An observational study using monthly NHS App user data at general-practice level in England was conducted. METHOD: Descriptive statistics and time-series analysis explored monthly NHS App use from January 2019-May 2021. Interrupted time-series models were used to identify changes in the level and trend of use of different functionalities, before and after the first COVID-19 lockdown. Negative binomial regression assessed differences in app registration by markers of general-practice level sociodemographic variables. RESULT: Between January 2019 and May 2021, there were 8 524 882 NHS App downloads and 4 449 869 registrations, with a 4-fold increase in App downloads when the COVID Pass feature was introduced. Analyses by sociodemographic data found 25% lower registrations in the most deprived practices (P<0.001), and 44% more registrations in the largest sized practices (P<0.001). Registration rates were 36% higher in practices with the highest proportion of registered White patients (P<0.001), 23% higher in practices with the largest proportion of 15-34-year-olds (P<0.001) and 2% lower in practices with highest proportion of people with long-term care needs (P<0.001). CONCLUSION: The uptake of the NHS App substantially increased post-lockdown, most significantly after the NHS COVID Pass feature was introduced. An unequal pattern of app registration was identified, and the use of different functions varied. Further research is needed to understand these patterns of inequalities and their impact on patient experience.

Original publication




Journal article


Br J Gen Pract

Publication Date



electronic health records, general practice, patient portals