This site is intended for health professionals only

At the heart of general practice since 1960

One in four GPs willing to work for online providers

Exclusive A quarter (25%) of GPs would consider working for an online private provider of general practice, a Pulse survey has found.

This was in addition to the 1.6% of respondents to the survey of 760 GPs, who said they are already doing so on a full or part-time basis.

GPs told Pulse that improved pay, freedom from practice contracts and legal protection would encourage them to seek such employment.

But the vast majority of GPs, some 63.16%, said they would not consider working for online private GP services. 

These GPs said they were deterred by the work, which they believe is ‘high risk’ for both patient safety and doctors, and many dismissed this employment as ‘unethical’ and a threat to core general practice.

The remainder said they did not know.

Portfolio GPs were more likely to be tempted into this form of employment, with over a third (39%) saying they would consider this work, compared to just one in five (20%) GP partners.

The news follows the emergence of large players on the scene of private GP provision. This most notably includes Babylon - which offers both a private and an NHS service - and Push Doctor, which is also hoping to enter the NHS fray.

Babylon said earlier this year that it now has 200 GPs on its roster, working across its private services and NHS app GP at Hand. Pulse reported that the company offers a full-time salary of around £90,000 to work from home, or £108,000 if office based.

Dr Charlotte Ferriday, a GP in Devon, said she would not work for a private online GP service.

She said: 'I think the results so far are shockingly poor in terms of the quality of prescribing, follow up and consideration of co-morbidities and it will do nothing to reduce the strain on the NHS.'

A GP registrar in Surrey said the work was 'too high risk'. They said: 'I don't feel it is a risk worth taking when your liberty could be at stake.'

A salaried GP in Devon said: 'I think the results so far are shockingly poor in terms of quality of prescribing, follow-up and consideration of co-morbidities and will do nothing to reduce the strain on the NHS.'

And a GP partner in Hampshire called the services 'McDonald's medicine for convenience for young people who do not need continuity'.

They added: 'I have seen the problems of a recurrent online private GP prescription for controlled drugs.'

But Dr Zishan Syed, a GP partner in Maidstone and LMC representative for West Kent, said: ‘I would be willing to consider safe private alternatives as the present GMS contract in unfit for purpose and it was clear from past BMA/LMC conferences that our ‘leaders’ are determined to support failing NHS contracts even if viable private solutions as followed by dentists are available.’

He added: ‘Private practice allows a sensible alternative control of one’s workload which the BMA has failed to achieve spectacularly through failing to protect its members’ interests by insisting on this appalling GMS contract.’

BMA GP Committee workforce lead Dr Krishna Kasaraneni said: 'What this survey shows is that the majority of GPs questioned clearly wish to continue working in the NHS providing face-to-face care to their patients, and that many have well-founded concerns over the ethics and safety of online models.

‘However, as GPs face unmanageable workloads in the face of rising demand and chronic underfunding, doctors are understandably frustrated by this. Within this climate, private providers that are able to cherry-pick healthier, better-off, patients, and offer a more flexible workload to practitioners, may be an attractive option to some.’

Doctors in Unite chair Dr David Wrigley, a GP in Carnforth, Lancashire, said: 'These results show how reticent GPs are about working both in an online environment and for a large profit-driven health care company.'

A Babylon spokesperson said: 'Babylon welcomes this Pulse survey result, as we believe we can support GPs to be better able to provide high-quality care effectively and efficiently, in a way that is simply not possible for GPs working in a traditional general practice to do.'

Would you consider working for an online private GP service if the terms were acceptable?

Yes, full-time - 4.08% (31)

Yes, part-time - 20.53% (156)

No - 63.16% (480)

I already do part-time - 0.66% (5)

I already do full-time - 0.92% (7)

Don’t know - 10.66% (81)

The survey was launched on 12 April 2018, collating responses using the SurveyMonkey tool. The 28 questions asked covered a wide range of GP topics, to avoid selection bias on one issue. The survey was advertised to our readers via our website and email newsletter, with a prize draw for a Ninja Coffee Bar as an incentive to complete the survey. A total of 760 GPs responded to this question.

Readers' comments (9)

  • A consultation is still a consultation face to face or otherwise - and should take the same length of time (there is nothing I needlessly do when face to face). Question - where are the doctors / Noctors coming from to man this - or is that a stupid question? Bad news for Mrs Miggins, 89, 4 co-morbidities - the Dr won't see you now as they are working for Babylon (not) seeing all those "20 somethings" with a cough.

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • Bob Hodges

    If Carr-Hill is ever revised (as they've been threatening to do for a decade) to reflect need, then these clowns are dead in the water without co-payments.

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • Doing a risky online consultation without notes or medication is not best care. The yard stick we are measured by. If the patient dies then it is Gross Negligence Manslaughter charges for whoever does it.

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • AlanAlmond

    For an inexperienced, newly qualified or otherwise naive GP I can see the superficial attraction of working for a service that strips out the bulk of complicated patients, (that’s anyone with a mental health problem, a drug dependency issue, on the child protection register, pregnant, terminally ill or with multiple morbidities) allowing you to work from home when ever is convenient on an informal ad-hoc basis. But the fact remains if you don’t have the real possibility of examining someone it isn’t safe. I can think of several instances where I’ve been caught out in a conventional face to face appointment by atypical presentations that could have had dire consequences but for luck and them seeing someone else soon after..two of which involved young people with DVTs (one a young lad aged only 19). Just the demographic you will being seeing on line. I missed it in a normal consultation, there would have been absolutely NO chance via video. Weird stuff happens, consulting by video leaves you wide open. Just because other people are doing it doesn’t make it a sensible idea. There are so many reasons why this model sucks, for me the biggest issue is risk which falls solely on the Drs stupid enough to work for them.

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • Difficult to see how wny employer could be worse than the NHS.

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • Once someone has defended themselves in court demonstrating that a Skype examination is as safe as a F2F exam then I'm in .... until then I'm afraid it's F2F for me

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • We’ve been doing telephone conversations for decades people! Nout different here just new vested interests.

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • The 20% GP partners are 'enemy collaborators'. If they were like the vast majority of partners (working flat out for their patients in the practice), they wouldn't be contemplating part-time work for GP at Hand; they'd be too overworked...and if they are already overworked they should not be working online...Criminal.

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • When we get to the level of 3 in 4 happy to work with online providers, we will have shed our psychological and moral fetters that keep us slaving for NHSE and unscrupulous politicians. Let's hope this happens soon. The main hindrance are cardigans and activists who are stabbing us in the back in own personal interests.

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

Have your say