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Independents' Day

New online GP service offers £25 video consultations

A new private GP service offering 10-minute video consultations via a video link for £25 has been launched, amid concerns from GPs about how effective it will be.

The new service – called Push Doctor – has a network of over 7,000 GPs who are available from 6am to 10pm for appointments, and works through an app that patients can download.

But GPs warn that such services ignore how essential physical examinations are, while the GPC said that patients will be forced to access these types of services privately until funding issues are resolved.

Under the service, patients can pay an extra £15 if they want to book a longer, 20 minute appointment, while online prescriptions will cost £4.50 and referral letters and Fit for Work notes incur a £12 charge.

Push Doctor Limited said the service is regulated by the CQC and manned by ‘experienced family doctors’ who have been ‘hand-picked and put through a rigorous verification and checking programme’.

It says the scheme will give patients more flexibility and convenience to book appointments outside of working hours, and ‘boasts the longest opening hours of any other service of this kind’.

However, Dr Peter Swinyard, chair of the Family Doctors Association, warned the online service would not be adequate for many consultations because ‘it is an essential part of the consultation to be able to perform a physical examination’.

Dr Swinyard explained: ‘Within limits it will be ok but even for something routine like prescribing contraception, I’d like to see a current blood pressure.’

He added: ‘There may be circumstances in which people will find it convenient – it will be a supplement to general practice but it’s not a replacement for it.’

Dr Beth McCarron-Nash, GPC member and a GP in Truro, said it was a ‘shame’ practices were not given similar levels of funding to provide more access to working age patients for minor illness.

Dr McCarron-Nash said: ‘I think it’s a real shame general practice isn’t funded to the same level – if it was then convenience might be affordable.’

She added: ‘I appreciate traditional general practice perhaps doesn’t offer all the solutions that the young mobile person with limited health issues would like, but if we had more money it would be a completely different board game.

‘This kind of access is the “Martini” form of general practice – “Any time, any place, anywhere”. Unless we address the fundamental workforce, workload and funding issues that are killing general practice in England then I’m afraid this sort of service will only continue to be available privately.’

Readers' comments (33)

  • This is accelerating the decline not providing a solution . Good profit margin for the Ltd company though whilst individuals take the risk . Looking at the ten they all seem sensible . Extraordinary if they can't see they'll be dropped like a stone with the first complainant .

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  • This is called a telephone consult ... Not new or innovative. If u want me to see something take time out of twitter or hello mag and come see me.

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  • waiting for the first patient to go to the community pharmacist with their pushDr generated script (presumably it gets e-mailed to the patient??) and the pharmacist explaining that it is rather expensive and they could get it cheaper from their GP...

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  • Some GPs already use Skype to deal with their NHS patients; some hospital doctors use Skype to deal with their patients.

    Some members of the public have their own BP monitor and in my case a pulse oximiter.

    Some patients have access to their GP record on line via for example EMIS.

    I personally have all my hospital records online in a secure cloud storage system - Microsoft Health Vault.

    Some members of the public are savvy enough to know if an in person GP visit is the best option for them.

    Some members of the public would not mind being seen in the first instance by a physicians assistant on a triage basis.

    Telephone consultations with pictures what the problem. Guess it is the same one as the introduction of the telephone consultation years ago.

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  • My thoughts are in line with Dr Sandbach . It is like telephone triage with pictures giving more info . It cannot replace the GP for physical exam and patients are reasonably good at guessing if something needs examining therefore see your own GP . It is probably of most use to commuters who can try the simple things and discuss what to look out for and when to see the gp in person . It is likely to be a step up from cyberchondria . They are likely to e prescribe .

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  • I used to do telemedicine consultations with my patients. The problem I found was that most patients are not used to it and you have to have an agreed time when they are online, which proved difficult.

    I still do telephone consultations with my patients and this, despite the lack of images, Is very much in demand by patients as I can phone them on their mobiles and they don't need to switch on their various mobile video systems. Having done telephone consultations for many years I have found that in excess of 80% of all issues can be safely managed just over the phone. Just like face-to-face consultations one gains more experience with time

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  • I think Peter is the only one who realized this.

    When they need physical exam or safety netting, guess where they'll be directing their patients? Yes, to free at point of Care, no questions asked at booking service called NHS primary care. Wait until your patients come in with *recommendations " from these services

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  • Come on folks - plan for going private.
    This will be used to fill for the GP retirements, and practices falling over, then for OoHs to address staff shortages, and to replace 111. Next it will become common place, and soon you will be competing for a list with these services run nationally, and only getting the most ill and infirm who need constant examination and want a traditional GP.

    Go private, and offer the best service, and let the cowboys in the corporates divide up the rest. Its gone

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  • "secure cloud storage system..."

    whats that?

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  • This is what is needed. GPs should stop overworking and stop doing OOH. make a group and offer paid appointments at a viable cost. thats what the govt wants...do it ...make good money.......and get no abuse.
    a win win situation. Its NOT your job to "save" the NHS.U merely work for it. start this and the monopoly employer problem is solved..

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