Making it easy for everyone to access vital NHS health appointments

Everyone has the right to preventative healthcare. Appt Health is making it easier for all patients to make and attend health appointments with their GPs, thanks to its smart patient engagement service.

Posted on: 28/09/2023

Appt Health was founded and developed by economist Hector Smethurst after he worked in a GP practice, looking for innovative approaches to addressing health inequalities in East London. Appt Health is a tech-enabled service that is simpler to use, more inclusive, and more affordable that current methods. It’s proven to increase patient engagement with preventative health programmes such as vaccinations and cancer screenings.

Appt Health’s intuitive booking system replaces traditional letters or phone calls, that are more expensive and time-consuming for practices, and often fail to reach low-income and marginalised people due to language barriers or digital exclusion. Instead, Appt Health streamlines the process using digital communication and automation. The smart workflow system easily connects into pre-existing surgery platforms, and uses appointment system integration, accessible messaging delivered by SMS, letter and telephone, and patient analysis to ensure everyone eligible can book and keep their appointments.

The value of preventing health conditions rather than just treating them is well understood by Innovate UK which is why it awarded £633,619 to help Hector and his team develop a solution. Hector said the Innovate UK grant was a clear signal of confidence to future partners.

Having Innovate UK involved helped de-risk the process for our customers and investors and created a market demand. It also showed support for a social enterprise like us, which isn’t a common business model in the health sector. It proved to be pivotal for us as a team.

– Hector Smethurst, founder of Appt Health

The funding allowed Hector to develop the software and conduct a number of clinical trials to prove its efficacy. The first trial involved 1,500 patients at Barking and Dagenham NHS Trust and achieved automated booking rates of over 50% compared to the national figure of 39%. Then, during Covid-19, the software was used by around 100 GP practices. It improved patient uptake of preventive healthcare programmes by up to 35% and reduced practice time spent on administration by 20%, compared to conventional call-and-recall methods.

Its most recent trial has been with Curo Health, a federation of 27 GP practices in West Yorkshire. It used Appt Health for its lung screening programme and saw a 58% increase in bookings, an 18% increase in patient uptake of appointments, and a saving of £1.05 per patient. Stephen Lees, Programme Manager for Curo Health said, “We were totally blown away. We had been concerned about how we’d meet the increase in our clinical capacity, but with Appt it was no problem. It really exceeded our expectations.”

The Innovate UK funding has been a springboard for growth for Appt Health. In the last 3 years, the team has grown from 4 to 10 and the platform is integrated with 95% of GP practices across the UK. Hector believes the adoption of these new digital behaviours will have a long-lasting impact for primary care. He says, “The benefits of getting call-and-recall right could be huge especially if we can reach those who will most benefit from preventive healthcare and health promotion activities. Take lung screening alone. Catching lung cancer at stage 1 can save £35,000 per patient per year. We have a chance to improve the nation’s health while reducing the burden of care and cost on the NHS.”

Share this article


Connect with Innovate UK Business Connect

Join Innovate UK Business Connect's mailing list to receive updates on funding opportunities, events and to access Innovate UK Business Connect's deep expertise. Please check your email to confirm your subscription and select your area(s) of interest.