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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)

  • Physician Assistants could do all their consultations in this manner because they are not trained to do clinical examinations.

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  • Anonymous - I'm no dinosaur (GP qualified relatively recently) but believe that prescribing without notes or ability to examine is likely to lead to harm - as, funnily enough, do the MDOs, hence their higher indemnity fees for OOH work.

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  • There is a lot of information we all pick up passively. When someone tells us they are coughing in person we automatically know if they are short of breath, how short of breath, if they are dehydrated, if they are anxious, etc, etc ,etc.

    You just lose that backup if you consult in this way. I expect members of the public to not understand that, but not members of the profession.

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  • Anon@4.17 - sorry you think that highlighting potential problems renders one out-dated. I would have thought that the more issues that are raised pre-emptively, the longer one has to find solutions. Simple risk management. Just think how much could have been saved had attention been paid to legitimate concerns with all the other "bright" ideas attracting investment and diverting money away from basic services in recent years.

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  • This is a very clever way of privatising health care.
    The politicians are the ones who are responsible for making patients lose trust in their doctors and they will resort to third class care and they will have to pay for this third class care!!!

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  • much better working in OOH or locum work. £45 an hour and out of that pay your (guaranteed to be exorbitant) indemnity costs, tax, NI, etc. and you are probably left with about £15 an hour...

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  • 7000 GPs! 6am to 10pm. What GP crisis!

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  • Peter Swinyard

    To supplement my reported comments above - I do a lot of telephone consulting but the default is to ask the patient to attend for examination - and my call-in rate is 37%, rather lower than my partners' as I know most of the people who call and I have access to the lifelong medical record.
    With PushDoctor - that would mean that I would advise 50% or so of callers to have a physical examination.
    Guess who will be asked to do this.
    Precisely.

    No, I have not applied to be one of the 7000, despite being asked.

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  • This is not new, it is just becoming more mainstream. Lots of medical services are on line and offer efficient medical treatment for everyday ailments and more. What's new is that the cost has reduced so that anyone with a job can afford this rather than wait for an appointment with their local GP - they are willing to pay. The other interesting thing I have found is that people are reporting good treatment from these services. Im not sure what the answer is for the NHS but I see a two tier privatised system gaining strength where people can now choose where they get medical treatment. I think this will mean that the NHS only treats very serious illness and people who cannot afford to pay. The dinosaur comment is sadly correct, and we know that the only thing we can be certain of in the NHS is change!

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  • It's not the NHS - it's private. Presumably developed as a cost saver cf providing face-to-face consultations.

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