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Privacy campaigners question credibility of NHS ‘endorsed’ apps

Health Service must ‘make rigorous checks’ on data collection and usage

Crop of doctor with pen and clipboard

Serious concerns have been raised over the credibility of the NHS Health Apps Library, with privacy campaign group MedConfidential having identified at least 60 apps that call into question the body's approval process.

The library hosts 230 apps, although nearly half of the 130 to have been assessed by MedConfidential to date raise “serious questions over the process that led to their approval for the store".

The body told El Reg some of those apps could be open to very serious abuse. It has already formally complained about four, which led to mental health app Kvetch and Spanish-owned Doctoralia being taken down.

The body claimed the 60 or so apps it has identified have failed to meet the stated criteria that they should be safe, relevant to the UK, and compliant with the Data Protection Act. It said it has found up to 20 apps listed that are not even available to download in the UK.

Phil Booth, director of MedConfidential, said he is writing to NHS England, about his concerns."If the NHS is to endorse apps, it should make rigorous checks of the types of data that apps will be collecting, and all policies and conditions pertaining to the data collected."

He questioned how many of these apps ought to have qualified for inclusion in the App Library in the first place.

A spokesperson for NHS England said: “It is vitally important that we ensure all of the apps recommended on NHS Choices are, as minimum, clinically safe, relevant ... and compliant with the Data Protection Act."

"We were made aware of some issues with a couple of apps on the Health Apps Library and these have since been removed,” they added.

NHS England said work is underway to develop a more thorough review process against further quality indicators, leading to a list of NHS ‘endorsed’ apps.

It follows the questionable competence of a number of NHS information initiatives, not least the Care.data scheme which was recently deemed as unachievable by the Major Projects Authority.

The successful completion of the NHS Choices website, the so-called 'digital channel for the NHS' has also been rated as unachievable. ®

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