iPhone users get NHS 'nurse in your pocket' app

Relief is at hand for malingering Apple fanbois in the UK, with the launch of an NHS Direct app that's described in a somewhat dubiously-worded press release as a 'nurse in your pocket'.

Created by the National Health Service in conjunction with developer Mobikats, the app is now available from the Apple iTunes store, and doubtless provides helpful advice on the symptoms of temporary blindness, RSI and wrist ache that may or may not be associated with excessive smartphone use.

The 'much-anticipated' iPhone release offers the same functionality as a significantly less trumpeted Android release last week, providing access to 37 health and symptom checkers.

After answering a set of questions, users can get instructions on the most appropriate course of action, by dishing out advice on self-care or generating a call-back from an NHS Direct Nurse Advisor.

The free app's creators hope that by providing targeted advice to iPhone users, the app will free up the overstretched resources of a cash-strapped NHS by diverting simple queries away from local health services such as GPs and hospital A&E departments - presumably in order to provide tax relief to those who can afford private healthcare.

"The distinct difference between any other app and ours is that, should you need to [contact us] via this app, you will be offered the opportunity to speak to a health professional if your symptoms suggest you need to," said Roger Donald, acting associate director for multi-channel at NHS Direct. "There's nothing else on the market that will do that."

"We have to tally up the clinical safety with the patient experience," added Donald. "They're the two elements that are core to our service, it has to be safe and it has to be usable; otherwise what's the point?"

Plans are already afoot to create a 2.0 version of the app over the next six to eight months, which 'digests' information to make it much easier to swallow from the limited confines of a smartphone screen.