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Second private online GP provider looking to partner with NHS practices

Exclusive A second major provider of private online GP consultations is looking to offer its services via the NHS, Pulse has learned.

Push Doctor, which currently offers video GP consultations ‘in minutes’ at £20 each, told Pulse that it is seeking ways to provide NHS services.

Birmingham LMC chair Dr Robert Morley told Pulse that Push Doctor had ‘contacted all Birmingham practices’ in a search for partners who could use its technology.

The bid comes as fellow online provider Babylon Health is actively seeking to expand its NHS service offering elsewhere in the UK, having already signed up thousands of patients since its London launch in November.

Although Push Doctor stressed plans were in early stages, the company said it was seeking to work with multiple GP practices across multiple CCGs.

Founder and chief executive Eren Ozagir said: ‘As a category leader with unrivalled UK experience in delivering high quality regulated digital healthcare we continue to explore, with stakeholders at a local and national level, how we may work together to bring Push Doctor's unique levels of speed, availability and convenience to NHS patients and at the same time greater efficiencies in the provision of care.’

He said both the NHS and the CQC – which published a report on online providers last week – had ‘repeatedly stated the importance of digital in improving patient choice and the quality of care’.

But, despite this, Dr Morley said there was concern locally over what the plans will mean for GPs, adding: ‘It is a matter over which the LMC is liaising closely with the CCG and NHS England locally.’

At the same time, Babylon Health confirmed to Pulse that 'multiple talks’ are ‘going on with cities all over the UK’ about expanding the GP at Hand service beyond London.

GP at Hand has proved extremely popular, with 4,000 patients a month signing up since the November launch, but it has faced a backlash from GP leaders including the BMA, Londonwide LMCs and the RCGP.

Medical director Dr Mobasher Butt said: 'We're looking at sites all over the country. Obviously any of the major cities would be great locations.'

The comments come as board papers from NHS Hammersmith and Fulham CCG, where GP at Hand’s London host practice is based, had said Babylon Health planned to launch its NHS service elsewhere ‘in July 2018’.

GP leaders’ criticism has focused on current advice that the service model may not be suitable to certain patients, including those who are frail or pregnant, prompting allegations of ‘cherry picking’.

Although Babylon Health has refuted the claims, saying GP at Hand has patients from ‘across the ages from children, to people over 80, to people with complex health needs, NHS Hammersmith and Fulham CCG board papers said 'almost all of the new patients are in the 20-64 age group, with three-quarters under 35'.

Readers' comments (28)

  • Tony 2:40 - nail on head. Like telephone consultations, makes it even easier for the "can't be too careful" consultation.
    But watch Ali Parsa on You Tube - he's set on replacing most doctor functions with an AI engine. And history is not on our side. Already (and for some years, actually) the ECG machine is better than the human at diagnosis. We are expensive. Bots are very cheap - almost nil marginal cost after development costs.
    Ever felt like a King Cnut?

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  • Anon2016 3.17pm

    This is my view on AI:

    AI will have more knowledge than all Polymath/Professor/Consultant/GP(s). It will also have ‘experience’ to pick the most appropriate investigation/treatment/surgery (performed by robots) for individual patients. Google’s AI, Deep Mind, has been gathering this information at the Royal Free, without patient consent, to understand why clinicians make the decisions that they do. It will be able to pick through the slightly abnormal scans, bloods and decide as to what is significant requiring further investigation. It will have all of our ‘experience’ and will be continuously developing its own experience, identifying where further research should be done. The only thing that is in question is to will AI will have developed enough for patients to have equal empathy with Bots compared to clinicians. If not there will be space for people picked (by AI) and further trained to be caring and empathic to deliver pleasantries and advice to patients. Much of the role of the GP is about reassurance and explanation. Rates of pay will be comparable to low level nursing, if even this high. All the knowledge and experience will come from AI. So no need for a medical degree or postgrad qualifications. The Govt will save a fortune. The other question is will Bots have developed enough to take over the role of the health care worker..toiletting, feeding, chatting to patients...?

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  • I can see a time when automated AI delivered healthcare along the grounds that I mentioned above will still remain free in the NHS. This will largely limit the rising costs of healthcare delivery for the Government. However any human contact, either virtually or face-to-face, will require a separate fee, much like Ryanair and other services.

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  • AlanAlmond

    Well there’s absolutely no long term future in being a GP then. I guess we just need to be thankful we lived in a time when there was value in knowing stuff and possessing personal skills. We are moving to a time when people will all be indulged empty heads. I can’t see life will be much fun, there’s personal reward in understanding even if society as a whole comes to place no value on it. I’m not sure the future is going to be much fun...lots of work for mental health AI bots though that’s fairly certain. Plenty of empty depressed lives I suspect.

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  • Yup
    Watch Eric Tool on YT The great inversion of medicine.
    This talk is almost two years old, so you can see how his predictions are playing out before our eyes.

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  • Ex-GP 4.47pm

    Sadly I wish I could be more positive. The scenario that I present is not going to happen tomorrow and I cannot give a timeline as to how long it will take, but unfortunately the only long-term future I see for young GPs and many other Doctors that decide to remain in healthcare is to move into management and get as high as possible and put up with the politics. I know that for most of us this is not what we trained for or wanted to do, but there is a reason why doctors move into jobs in the BMA, Royal colleges, government advisory rolls etc. Mind you there will only be a limited number of jobs. Sorry to be so pessimistic.

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  • Tony - once you opt out of the NHS treadmill, there's a host of opportunity out there for medics who still practise but also dive into the commercial world. Still very possible to turn this to our advantage. "When pushed, pull... etc"

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  • anon2016 5.22pm


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  • anon2016

    I agree, but there are many doctors who are frightened of moving out of the illusionary safety of the NHS. It used to be safe and secure, but unfortunately like everything else in this changing world that is no longer the case.

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  • Frogs in hot water.
    And as much as I have never regretted leaving my partnership, I'm currently between jobs. Which is one reason to maintain a diversified portfolio of activities. Another is that that makes you more employable.

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