‘Your Virtual Assistant’: The patient experience of Ask NHS

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Summary of report content

Healthwatch Bucks undertook research on people’s experience of using the Ask NHS app as many local GPs are encouraging patients to use it to access services.  They undertook a survey to which 185 people responded.

Three quarters had heard of Ask NHS, and of those over three quarters had used it in the last six months.  The report then looks at the experience of this group of people.

Most had used the Ask NHS app on their phone or tablet.  Three quarters had used the symptom checker, mainly for illness.  Almost four in five found it easy or very easy to use. Just over half found the virtual assistant helpful and around seven in ten found the length of time it took them to use it was about right.

The outcome for 26 people was that a call back from a clinician was requested or they spoke to the GP directly. 25 people were directed to 999, 111 or self-care.  Just over three in five people were happy with the outcome of the symptom checker.  These were mainly people who got through to a GP.

Most people who were told that they would be called back by their GP or spoke to their GP directly spoke to someone on the same day. Most said that the GP had reviewed the symptoms recorded via the app.  Only three people said they had to repeat all their symptoms.

Eleven people were given self-care advice.  All but three were happy with the advice given.

Just over half of people said they hadn’t recommended Ask NHS to family or friends. People that were not happy with the outcome of the symptom checker were less likely to recommend Ask NHS.

Three in five people said they would use Ask NHS again.  These were mainly people who found it easy to use the symptom checker and who were satisfied with the outcome of using the symptom checker.

Less than half said they would use the Ask NHS app before calling their surgery.  Many of those were happy with the outcome of the symptom checker.

The report contains eight recommendations about the functionality of the app and how GPs and patients use it.

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General details

Report title 
‘Your Virtual Assistant’: The patient experience of Ask NHS
Local Healthwatch 
Healthwatch Buckinghamshire
Date of publication 
Thursday, 29 April, 2021
Key themes 
Communication between staff and patients
Digitalisation of services
Information providing
Integration of services
Patient records

Methodology and approach

Was the work undertaken at the request of another organisation? 
Primary research method used 
If an Enter and View methodology was applied, was the visit announced or unannounced? 

Details of health and care services included in the report

Primary care services 
GP practice
Urgent and emergency care services 
Ambulance services
NHS 111

Details of people who shared their views

Number of people who shared their views 
Age group 
Not known
Not known
Not known
Sexual orientation 
Not known
Does the information include public's views? 
Does the information include carer's, friend's or relative's views? 
Does the information include staff's views? 
What was the main sentiment of the people who shared their views? 

Outcomes and impact

Were recommendations made by local Healthwatch in the report? 
Does the information contain a response from a provider? 
Is there evidence of impact in the report? 
Is there evidence of impact external to the report? 
Not known

Network Impact
Relationships that exist locally, regionally, nationally have benefited from the work undertaken in the report
Implied Impact
Where it is implied that change may occur in the future as a result of Healthwatch work. This can be implied in a provider  response, press release or other source. Implied impact can become tangible impact once change has occurred.
Tangible Impact
There is evidence of change that can be directly attributed to Healthwatch work undertaken in the report.