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Independents' Day

Private online GP service offered to patients in NHS hospital

A private, online GP service is being provided by a hospital in Kent, which will allow remote GPs to issue immediate prescriptions at its in-house pharmacy under a controversial new scheme.

Sheppey Community Hospital has become the first NHS hospital to provide the MedicSpot virtual GP service - which charges £39 per consultation and does not require patients to register - by hosting on-site equipment that allows remote GPs to assess patients and issue prescriptions that can be collected at the hospital.

NHS England told Pulse that the arrangement was allowed because while community pharmacies are contracted to provide NHS services, as private businesses they can also contract with other, private providers to supply non-NHS services.

But GPs warned that providing private GP services on hospital premises served to 'undermine' NHS GP practices and 'drive a wedge' between providers.

MedicSpot, which is already accessible at high-street pharmacies across 15 UK towns, sees consultations taking place via video call, with doctors able to remotely examine the patient through an attached blood pressure cuff, stethoscope, thermometer, pulse oximeter and a small camera for the throat and ears provided at the hospital.

The patient is instructed to use these instruments, with the results assessed by the remote GP.

Dr Jackie Applebee, a GP in Tower Hamlets, said: ‘It is bad enough that these services are available in pharmacies, but housing them in NHS hospitals undermines NHS general practice and drives a wedge between primary and secondary care when we should be working together for the good of our patients.'

She added: ‘This is no way to address the crisis in the NHS and these online private services are exploiting the crisis to make a profit. The way to address the crisis is to fund the NHS adequately, to the same levels as comparable countries.'

But GP and founder of MedicSpot Dr Zubair Ahmed, who intends to further expand his business, said it was 'designed to try and take some pressure away from the NHS and increase capacity in our health system as a whole'.

He said: 'The NHS recognises that access to safe primary healthcare needs to be improved to reduce inappropriate attendances to A&E and other knock-on effects.

'MedicSpot is providing this which is already having cost savings for the NHS and we hope to work in collaboration with NHS stakeholders in future to magnify these positive effects.'

A recent Pulse survey revealed that eight in 10 GPs would welcome charging their own patients for non-NHS services, such as longer consultations and certain vaccinations. The demand was also supported in a conference motion by LMCs last year.

However, this is not allowed under the GP contract. As it stands, GPs can provide private services but not to patients who are on their registered practice list.

Readers' comments (10)

  • National Hopeless Service

    If I did this my notional rent would be reduced.

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  • I haven't seen it in action, but looks very promising as it allows technology to be used for selected patients.NHS GP's are resistant to any change because they are scared from competition. They react without fully appraising it.

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  • 10:38, is that right?
    Maybe just maybe it is exploitation, the ‘selected’ patients are those with £40 to spare, or those being failed by existing services. The real truth is that NHSE and the providers are fully aware that this is shite medicine, but it involves no cost to government. It will be the way of the future and if a few greedy GPs want to cash in with the DOH turning a blind eye, so be it. Oh and I wish them well with the GMC.

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  • Healthy Cynic

    ...better than using it without fully appraising it! Have you seen any evidence that a patient-held stethoscope is as good as one wielded by a GP?

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  • Patient administered proctoscope ?

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  • At least these initial shots in the privatization agenda are settling payment level for telephone consultations,nevvermind face to face.That would have been £1000 for this morning surgery of 25 face to face.Also did 10 telephone consults.Quids in.They dont realize what a bargain they had with a viable GP service.Rather they would starve it to death.

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  • I really fear for any GP doing this. I hope they are up to date with their insurance because any private company wont help when the complaints/significant incidents occur.

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  • who thinks up this stuff? like a sick april fools trick. seriously asking patients to wield medical equipment to help a remote doctor make a diagnosis......cmon!

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  • What happens when they need an abdominal examination, PR, urine dip etc? Not sure how easy it is to diagnose skin lesions via video-cam either. Do they then go and see an NHS GP?

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  • Maverick

    Just have a look at MedicSpot website.... it's an absolute joke. Money for old rope. "Our State of the art Clinic Station allow the doctor to perform various examinations on you just as your normal GP would do". Who would sign up for this shit? If this is the future of General Practice... God help us all... I'm keeping myself updated so I can look after my friends and family.... Joe public and the great unwashed...
    Best of luck...

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