Ask NHS app streamlines access to flu vaccinations

More than 1,000 NHS patients booked flu vaccinations this year using a virtual assistant developed by Sensely.
By Sara Mageit
09:01 am
Ask NHS app

Credit: Ask NHS 

A pilot project run in collaboration with GP practices in Buckinghamshire, Brent, and Greenwich, enabled patients to use the Ask NHS app to self-check eligibility and quickly make appointments for flu jabs. 


The Ask NHS app lets users check symptoms, book clinician appointments, access self-care resources, and connect with live video consultations.

Sophisticated Natural Language Processing (NLP) and speech recognition technologies make the conversational interface easy to use, while freeing up doctors and nurses’ time and reducing per-patient NHS costs by circa 14.4%

Adding vaccination information, a self-service eligibility check, and booking functionality to Ask NHS lets patients, protect themselves and quickly get the information they need and make appointments without having to call their clinic.

Designed in partnership with NHS nurses, the tool also allows high-risk patients to be prioritised based on symptoms or underlying health issues, improving access to vaccinations for vulnerable patients while easing the strain on healthcare providers.


People with long-term health conditions have been urged by the UK government to get the flu vaccine before Christmas, as Public Health England (PHE) analysis shows 6 in 10 flu deaths are people with underlying conditions.

The project sets the stage for the more widespread use of virtual assistants as the UK begins to roll out COVID-19 vaccines. Sensely is currently developing COVID-specific virtual tools, and plans to begin supporting NHS coronavirus vaccination efforts with customised virtual assistant technologies in early 2021.

Other competitors such as DrDoctor, have developed their technology and platforms to assist with the logistics of rolling-out a mass vaccination programme.  


Dr Rebecca Rosen, GP in Greenwich, London told MobiHealthNews: “We worked closely with the Sensely team to enable patients to book into flu clinics without having to call the practice. We text patients in batches and encourage them to book online or through the Ask NHS app. This has freed up receptionist time and enables patients to pick a time that suits them.”

Dr Arun Notaney, a GP at Premier Medical Centre in Brent, London said: “The Ask NHS app has been invaluable in allowing us to streamline our operations during the COVID-19 pandemic. Giving patients the ability to book via the app, rather than calling, has really improved the patient journey, and left our phone lines clear for patients who need to speak to a doctor rather than just to book a flu jab.” 

Sensely CEO, Adam Odessky said:  “During the pandemic, more people than ever are getting flu shots — but that places an enormous strain on clinics, and those challenges will only increase as we roll out COVID-19 vaccines.

“Our top priority, now and always, is to support the NHS and ensure patients get vaccinations quickly and easily. By using next-gen digital tools as part of an omnichannel strategy, we’re empowering patients to take ownership of their healthcare journey, and protect their families while easing the burden on hardworking doctors and nurses. ”  



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