The benefits of accessing health information online
Whether you are looking for health information online for yourself or supporting someone else to do so, this guide will support you to get more out of available NHS online resources.
Read on to learn about:
- The NHS Website.
- How to register to use and download the NHS app.
- GP Online services and how to register.
- The NHS e-Referral service.
- How to keep your information safe when managing your health online.
- How to identify other quality online health resources.
If after searching for information online you are worried about your own or someone else’s health, please seek medical guidance. Visit www.nhs.uk/using-the-nhs/nhs-services/urgent-and-emergency-care/ for further information.
The NHS website
The NHS website provides a wealth of information which is freely accessible. It allows you to get more details about health conditions and medicines, as well as advice and support.
The website includes a search facility to find NHS services, such as a doctor, dentist, pharmacist or optometrist. Information on healthy living is also available, including weight loss, eating well, exercise routines and help with stress, anxiety and depression. You can get the latest information and advice about coronavirus such as the symptoms, self-isolating and virus testing. For general information on how to access health services online, this guide is a good place to start: www.nhs.uk/health-at-home/.
There’s no need to register to use the NHS website, so you can browse anonymously. You can find the NHS website at www.nhs.uk.
If you need to contact a GP
You can contact your GP surgery both online and by phone. If you contact a GP online, you can tell them about your health using an online form or by chatting to someone virtually (Live Chat).
After this initial contact you may be offered an appointment by phone or video call with a GP, nurse, hospital specialist or other healthcare professional. For video appointments you will need a smartphone, tablet or computer with an internet connection. The decision to offer you a phone or video appointment will be made by the healthcare professional based on your needs and preferences. This guide (https://design-science.org.uk/video-consulting-with-your-nhs/) has advice and information to help you feel confident taking part in a video consultation.
Sections of the NHS website
The navigation bar at the top of each page gives you access to numerous fantastic resources. These include:
The Health A-Z section contains comprehensive guides to conditions and their symptoms, including what to do and when to get help.
Everything is arranged alphabetically. Click on the first letter of the condition you’re interested in and then scroll down the list to find the one you want more information about. Alternatively, you can type the name of the condition in the search field at the top of the page.
For example, if you wanted to know more about flu:
1. Click on the letter F at the top of the page.
2. Scroll down until you find flu in the list.
3. Click on the word to be taken to the page which will give you details about the symptoms of flu, how you can treat it at home and how to know when to seek medical help.
You can access this section directly by going to www.nhs.uk/conditions/
As well as learning more about health conditions, you can also find out more information about various medicines.
Follow the same process for finding information about different medicines – click on the letter the medication starts with and then scroll down the list to find the right one.
2. Live Well
The Live Well section of the NHS site contains lots of information, advice, tips and tools to help you make the best choices about your health and wellbeing.
On this page, you’ll find several subsections:
- Eat well – information about the different food groups and how to eat a balanced, healthy diet.
- Healthy weight – including a BMI calculator to discover if you’re a healthy weight.
- Exercise – programmes, workouts and ideas to get you moving and improve your fitness levels.
- Sleep and tiredness – information about how to get better sleep.
- Sexual health – information about all aspects of sexual health, including contraception, and STIs.
- Alcohol support – why reducing your alcohol intake is good for your health and support on cutting down.
- Quit smoking – how quitting smoking can have a positive impact on your health.
- Healthy body – practical information and advice on staying in good health.
- Moodzone – Advice, tools and audio guides to improve your mental and emotional wellbeing. This section is also useful if you know someone who may be struggling with their mental health and needs support dealing with stress, anxiety and/or depression.
There is also a section about children's health: www.nhs.uk/change4life
This area features fun ideas to help kids stay healthy, including information about nutrition, healthy recipes, a guide to your child’s weight and activities to improve children’s fitness and wellbeing.
3. Services Near You
You can find a summary of all the services offered by the NHS by going to www.nhs.uk/using-the-nhs/nhs-services/
You can also use the search function to find specific services near you by visiting www.nhs.uk/service-search
For example, let’s say you’ve just moved to a new area and you want to find a GP. Click on GP then put your post code in the ‘location’ box.
Click on the ‘Search’ button and you’ll be shown the results. You’ll have the option to save your postcode so you won’t have to input it for future searches. You can also sort the results by topics such as quality of service and use of hospital and order them e.g. nearest, rating, etc.
4. Social care and support
If you or someone you know needs help with day-to-day living due to illness or disability, you can find information about your options and where to get support here:
This section of the site includes details on:
- What is social care and support.
- What help is available from social services and charities.
- What you can get in terms of care services, equipment and care homes.
- How to pay for care and support and where you can get help with costs.
- Care following a hospital stay.
- Support and benefits for carers.
- Practical advice for carers.
- Help for those caring for children and young people.
- What to do if you need to make decisions for others, including power of attorney.
5. Mental health support and services
If you need information about mental health support and services available on the NHS, go to www.nhs.uk/using-the-nhs/nhs-services/mental-health-services/
This section gives information about:
- How to access mental health services.
- How to deal with a mental health crisis or emergency.
- What happens during a mental health assessment and how to get a second opinion.
- Your rights under the Mental Health Act.
- Child and adolescent mental health services (CAMHS).
- Information about CAMHS written for children and young people.
- Child and adolescent mental health services information for parents and carers.
- An easy read guide to your rights under the Mental Health Act.
- A search engine to help you find a psychological therapy.
If you need help or support with your mental or emotional wellbeing, you might also find the Moodzone NHS self-help service useful:
The NHS app
The NHS app gives you the ability to get access to advice, support and information to help you manage your health in one handy app! You will need to create an NHS login to use most of the services on the app. The NHS app can be used on a smartphone or tablet computer or via a web browser. It is constantly evolving, so what you can do on the app may change over time.
Current functions include:
- Checking your symptoms.
- What to do when you need help urgently.
- Booking and managing appointments at your GP surgery.
- Ordering repeat prescriptions.
- Securely viewing your GP medical records.
- Registering to be an organ donor.
- Selecting how the NHS uses your data.
All GP practices in England are connected to the NHS App. This means that anyone aged 13 and over and registered with a GP practice in England can use it. Before you can use all the services you need to verify your identity.
The NHS app online
The NHS website allows access to the NHS App online; services can be accessed through a web browser from your laptop, desktop or tablet at www.nhs.uk/nhs-services/online-services/nhs-app/ You do not need to install anything to use the app through the website!
1. Downloading the app (if not using via browser)
2. Using the app
For help with using the app, visit these NHS help pages.
3. Registering for the NHS app
You can access the basic level of services in the NHS App without needing to prove your identity. If, however, you would like to access services such as appointment booking, ordering repeat prescriptions and your medical record, you will be required to prove your identity in order to be matched to your health records.
Prove your identity online using NHS Login
If you have up-to-date photo identification you can create an NHS login account online without the need to contact your GP. To do so you will be required to take a picture of one of the following documents:
• UK or European driving licence.
• Passport .
• European national identity card.
NHS Login provides guidance to make sure you have uploaded images that meet the acceptance criteria; this includes ensuring all four corners of your passport are clear and that there is no glare so your image can be clearly reviewed for approval. Once you have uploaded an image of your identity document, you are also required to record a short video of your face while you say 4 numbers. This is part of the security checks to match you to your identity, ensuring you are who you say you are.
For more information about using I.D. to prove your identity please follow this link: Use photo ID to prove who you are.
Using NHS Login without an identity document
If you would like to create a NHS login account but don't have a valid identity document, you will need to contact your GP practice for your online service registration details.
If you are registered for your GP surgery’s online services you will have already have had your identity verified in order to obtain registration details. You can use this information to login to the NHS App. For further details rad the What to do if you do not have photo I.D guide from the NHS.
If you need help with using a smartphone and downloading an app, Digital Unite has a number of informative guides which will take you through the process step-by-step.
- If you have an iPhone, you’ll find the iPhone guide here.
- If you use an android phone, you'll find the right guide here.
Other recommended health apps
The NHS Apps Library has a wide variety of apps and online tools that can help you, covering different conditions and categories like diabetes, pregnancy and maternity, and mental wellbeing.
The apps have all been assessed by the NHS as safe to use.
Apps and services made available for free during COVID-19
The following digital services have been made available free of charge during the coronavirus outbreak.
- The DigiBete app and website have resources for awareness, education, training and support for children and young people with type 1 diabetes and their families.
- Adults with type 1 diabetes can use My Type 1 Diabetes, which includes videos and e-learning courses, to understand more about the condition and how to manage it.
- A mental health app for 10 to 18-year-olds, ThinkNinja allows young people to learn about mental health and emotional wellbeing, and develop skills to build resilience and stay well.
GP online services and how to register
You can access your GP's online services directly through the NHS App, but if preferred you can also register to use your GP's own online services. These online services vary depending on the surgery, but can include:
- Booking, checking or cancelling appointments with a GP, nurse or other healthcare professionals
- Ordering repeat prescriptions
- View parts of your medical records, including details about medicines, vaccinations and test results
- Access communications between your GP surgery and other services, e.g. hospitals.
To find out which of these services your GP offers, check their website or visit www.nhs.uk/Service-Search/ to find out which providers are available to you.
You may also find these guides useful:
Registering for GP services online
To register for your GP's online services, you will need to:
- Tell your surgery you want to sign up for their online services. You may be able to do this over the phone or you may have to go to your surgery in person. If they require you to go to your surgery, take a form of photo ID, such as a passport or driving license, and proof of address, such as a utility bill.
- Fill in the registration form they provide you with.
- They will then give you your registration details and instructions on how to login.
The NHS e-Referral Service (e-RS)
The NHS e-Referral Service gives you an easy way to select and book your first hospital or clinic appointment with a specialist. To book an appointment online, you will need:
- Your booking reference number, which you’ll find on your booking letter
- The password or access code provided by the person or organization who referred you, e.g. GP.
You can access the e-Referral Service and further support here:
Protecting Your Personal Information Online
It is important to take care of your personal information when managing your health online. Here are a number of points to consider when using NHS online services.
This is also a really useful guide: www.digitalchampionsnetwork.com/resources/tips-keeping-your-nhs-health-data-safe
Finding reliable information
The NHS is the best and most reliable source for you to get information about health conditions and healthcare services, but there are plenty of other excellent websites out there which can give further support and guidance on specific health conditions.
This guide provides you with advice on what to look for when searching for further health information:
Last updated 16/03/21