ORCHA’s response to the Government’s first digital health and care plan, published today

Feature image: Sajid Javid, Secretary of State for Health and Social Care of the United Kingdom


Statement from Liz Ashall-Payne, founding CEO, ORCHA

“This report is long awaited and welcome. The pandemic left us with an over-burdened NHS, with unprecedented backlogs to tackle. But it also reminded us that necessity is the mother of invention. Digital health has already been implemented across many pockets of the NHS to help support patients at home and to ease the pressure on frontline staff. Use of our ORCHA Health App Libraries increased by 342% in the first months of the pandemic.*

There are many signs the country is more than ready for the widespread use of digital health. Two thirds of respondents in our recent consumer report were open to trying Digital Health Apps. Eighty-three per cent of those who used health apps found they actively helped improve their health.**

“But we have to sound a warning note. A scattergun approach to the implementation of digital health, with dozens of different products and systems introduced by different NHS providers, without a sound infrastructure to support it and minus knowledgeable frontline staff, will cost the NHS more and cause enormous confusion.

“At the very heart of this, there’s also a very significant patient safety issue, highlighted in the past few days by problems with period tracker apps in the US potentially sharing private data. Our ORCHA review team has, to date, carried out 19,000 health app reviews. Consistently, we find that around 80% of apps fail to meet the standards we require to add these products to our app libraries. They either fall down on clinical standards or are unsafe with patient data.

“For digital health to be safe and sustainable, we need to view digital in exactly the same was as we view medicines. We need rock-solid and universal standards in place and we need doctors to be able to prescribe products exactly as they prescribe medication, with a product recall system in place.

“There’s also an urgent need to have all frontline staff trained in how, when and why to use digital health. Earlier this year we launched the ORCHA digital health academy, a free and CPD-accredited resource available for the entire NHS workforce, available on the Health Education England NHS learning hub.”


**Digital Health in the UK: National attitudes and behaviour research, June 2022