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Hurley Group model wins most online consultation contracts from CCGs

The Hurley Group's tool for online consultations has been rolled out to 17 CCGs under NHS England's £45m fund.

In all, 39 CCGs purchased a tool for online consultations last year using the money announced in the GP Forward View.

The eConsult tool was the most commonly purchased, chosen by 17 CCGs, followed by Wiggly Amps' Engage Consult tool, opted for by 11 CCGs.

The Hurley Group is a four-partner superpractice based in London, which has over 100,000 patients. It announced in June that it will only offer patients face-to-face appointments where necessary in future, and it is in the process of doubling the number of GPs doing online consultations via eConsult to support the strategy.

NHS England announced its three-year £45m GP online consultation fund in 2016, as part of the GP Forward View, in a bid to increase the use of digital consultations by practices and make better use of GP time.

A Pulse FOI to NHS England on the spend of the fund revealed that in 2017/18:

  • eConsult Health Limited won online consultation contracts from 17 CCGs;
  • Wiggly Amps' online symptom checker and GP assessment tool Engage Consult was purchased by 11 CCGs;
  • Digital provider iPlato, which is behind the MyGP app that offers patients self-care information and communication with their GP, was purchased by eight CCGs; and
  • Three CCGs spent their allocation of funding on Stadn Ltd, which runs video consultation service Talk to a Doctor.

NHS England’s recently-resigned primary care director Dr Arvind Madan helped to set up Hurley Innovations – now called eConsult Health Limited - as a founding director in 2011, but he ceased all involvement with the company in December 2015, shortly after being appointed to the NHS England role. He remains a partner of the Hurley Group, alongside former RCGP chair Professor Clare Gerada.

The news comes as the NHS is also in the process of developing its own app, which NHS Digital has said could support GP video consultations from next year.

NHS England is also in the process of reviewing the GP contract to see how it can better support 'digital-first' models of delivering GP services.

Dr Grant Ingrams, member of the BMA GP Committee's IT policy group, said he would have expected more video consultation providers to have been been selected as recipients of the funding because they are 'a lot more useful' than e-consultations, which do not allow GPs to see or hear patients.

He said: 'With someone sitting in front of you, you get body language. If someone is talking to you on the phone you get an idea of how they are, whether they are upset or not - you get some clues.

'Dealing with someone on the internet – you’ve got none of those clues and it’s much harder to consult.'

But Dr Murray Ellender, GP partner at the Hurley Group and co-founder of eConsult, told Pulse: 'It is encouraging to see such a high take up of the e-consultation model.

'Video consultations tend not to save time and digital triage platforms have been set up in such a way to identify a patient who needs a telephone or face-to-face consultation quickly and safely.'

 How NHS England's GP online consultation fund was spent in 2017/18

AreaAwarded to CCGs

Bedford, Luton and Milton Keynes STP

Wiggly Amps

NHS Bedfordshire CCG

NHS Luton CCG

NHS Milton Keynes CCG

Humber Coast and Vale

Wiggly Amps

NHS East Riding of Yorkshire CCG

NHS Hull CCG

NHS North East Lincolnshire CCG

NHS North Lincolnshire CCG

NHS Scarborough and Ryedale CCG

NHS Vale of York CCG

Ipswich & East Suffolk & West Suffolk 

Hurley Innovations Ltd

NHS Ipswich and East Suffolk CCG

Ipswich & East Suffolk & West Suffolk 

Hurley Innovations Ltd

NHS West Suffolk CCG

Knowsley

Hurley Innovations Ltd

NHS Knowsley CCG

Lancs and Cumbria

iPLATO

NHS Morecambe Bay CCG

NHS Chorley and South Ribble CCG

NHS East Lancashire CCG

NHS Fylde and Wyre CCG

NHS Greater Preston CCG

NHS West Lancashire CCG

NHS Blackburn with Darwen CCG

NHS Blackpool CCG

North East London CCGs

Hurley Innovations Ltd

NHS Barking & Dagenham CCG

NHS Havering CCG

NHS Redbridge CCG

NHS Newham CCG

NHS Waltham Forest CCG

North East England

Hurley Innovations Ltd

NHS Durham Dales, Easington and Sedgefield CCG

NHS Newcastle Gateshead CCG

NHS North Durham CCG

NHS South Tyneside CCG

NHS Sunderland CCG

Somerset

Hurley Innovations Ltd

NHS Somerset CCG

West Yorkshire & Humber 

Hurley Innovations Ltd

NHS Airedale, Wharfedale and Craven CCG

NHS Bradford City CCG

NHS Bradford Districts CCG

West Yorkshire & Humber 

Stadn Ltd

NHS Harrogate and Rural District CCG

NHS Leeds CCG

West Yorkshire & Humber 

Stadn Ltd

NHS Greater Huddersfield CCG

West Yorkshire & Humber 

Wiggly Amps

NHS North Kirklees CCG

NHS Wakefield CCG

Source: NHS England data supplied to Pulse via a freedom of information request

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