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Paediatrician app criticised for operating without CQC registration

A health app that allows parents to access NHS paediatricians and midwives has come under fire for operating without a Care Quality Commission (CQC) registration.

The digital service, called Juno, became available to download for free across the UK in December last year following trials by 1,000 parents during its beta phase.

Juno was launched as a paid service in March, but according to a report in HSJ [paywall], the app was not registered by the CQC until May.             

A spokesperson for Juno Health told Healthcare IT News that the usual 10-12 week registration approval process had been delayed due to the COVID-19 pandemic and it had begun providing consultation services while awaiting approval.

They added that the company had been in contact with CQC during the registration process. 

WHY IT MATTERS 

With more than 374,000 health and fitness apps available via Google Play and Apple, consumers face a dizzying choice when choosing digital solutions. This has led to debate about whether health apps are being adequately regulated. 

THE LARGER CONTEXT 

Earlier this year NHSX launched the digital technology assessment criteria (DTAC), in a bid to provide confidence that digital health tools meet NHS standards.

Meanwhile, a recent study by the Organisation for Review of Care and Health Applications (ORCHA) found that only 32% of 676 mental health apps tested met the organisation’s minimum quality threshold. 

ON THE RECORD

A Juno spokesperson said: “The Juno Health app has received CQC approval and we were in contact with the CQC throughout the process of building and launching our free research pilot. They’ve been brilliant every step of the way, but finalising our registration was understandably delayed due to the pandemic. During this time, we’ve kept them fully informed on our progress. 

“We could not take the safety of our patients and the quality of the services we provide through our app more seriously. The app is staffed exclusively by NHS consultants, senior registrars and senior midwives. We also have a designated risk management and safeguarding officer, data protection officer, and a clinical lead. We are absolutely stringent about patient safety and data protection; Juno meets NICE digital guidelines, is registered with the ICO, has ISO 27001 certified data centre accreditation, and all clinicians are held to NHS standards of care and accreditation.” 

A CQC spokesperson said: “If a provider wishes to carry out ‘Regulated Activities’ (RA) then they have a responsibility to register with CQC before the point where their actions would constitute RA.

“We have been in dialogue with the provider as is usual and provided advice concerning the progress of their application during the process — including reminding them of their legal responsibilities around registration.

“We are aware of this particular provider and have recently approved an application to register relating to this service on 18 May 2021. Separate to the registration process, any evidence of activities being carried out by any organisation without registration would be considered following our usual processes.”

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