Labour sets out plans to digitise children’s healthcare records

7 April 2024, 23:44

Starmer visit to biomedical research institute
Starmer visit to biomedical research institute. Picture: PA

Shadow health secretary Wes Streeting suggested the plans could help tackle rising measles rates.

Labour will digitise the NHS red book parents use for their children’s medical records as part of a series of reforms to the NHS app.

Parents and the NHS would be able to see if children are behind on jabs or check-ups through a new digital record, with automatic notifications to prompt them to book appointments under the party’s plans.

The red book has been handed out to new parents for the past 30 years.

Previous health secretaries have hoped to digitise it during their tenure, including Jeremy Hunt and Matt Hancock, but so far the plans have not borne out.

Labour hopes its plans will help to boost MMR vaccination rates, which have fallen in recent years.

Measles outbreaks have at the same time become more common.

Wes Streeting MP, Labour’s shadow health secretary, said: “A child born today will live to see the 22nd century and things we can’t begin to imagine. Labour wants them to be part of the healthiest generation that ever lived. That’s why we will digitise the red book, so children’s health records are on the NHS App.

“This major step will transform children’s healthcare and will mean more children protected against measles. Now measles is back. It’s hard to think of a clearer sign of Britain’s decline under the Tories.

“With the red book on the app, the NHS will be able to notify every parent of an unprotected child, give them accurate information about the MMR vaccine, and invite their child to get vaccinated. That’s how a modern health service would tackle this public health crisis.”

Writing in the Sun newspaper, Mr Streeting insisted the NHS was “a service, not a shrine”.

Wes Streeting
Wes Streeting (Stefan Rousseau/PA)

He added: “It is judged by how well it serves the public, not how heavy a price we’re paying for failure.

“The problems with the NHS are clear. It’s a 20th century service that hasn’t changed with the times and isn’t fit for the modern era.”

Labour will also commit to give patients greater control over their own healthcare through the NHS app.

This would include access to their medical records on their phone, notifications about screenings and vaccines they are eligible for, and being told what care they can expect when diagnosed with long-term conditions like asthma or diabetes.

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer claimed his party would “give power to the patient”, and that GPs could ensure “time isn’t wasted on box-ticking”.

“In 2024, patients still wait on the phone at 8am, or even queue up in person, just to see a doctor. It’s no wonder so many people don’t bother or don’t have time, illness is caught too late, pressures on the NHS pile up, and lives are lost,” he said.

Sir Keir added: “The app shouldn’t just be for healthcare, but healthier living too. When you reach the right age, you’ll receive notifications for jabs, tests and screening, to catch diseases like breast and bowel cancer early.”

By Press Association

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