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Independents' Day

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)

  • Dear All,
    Good. The more offering their services to GPs the better. We need a market in these add on services with healthy competition. Lets hope NHSE understands this.
    Paul C

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  • As I have said- the march of these services is irresistible. It's what people think they want and for quite a large swathe of consumers what they really really actually want. It is now unstoppable.
    The only problem for Babylon is whether they can marshall the resources to cope with the demand.
    And to repeat - prescribing privilege will fall, not now, not soon but eventually.

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  • Pandoras box is well and truly open but there is no hope in the bottom of this one.

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  • We need to acknowledge there is a gap in provision which leads to these kind of services being popular.

    Our patients needs to understand it may however have unintended consequences as the market forces will dictate i.e. fall of traditional free at point of delivery general practice.

    This is something I'm sure politicians are all very aware - and probably looking at it with smiles bigger than cheshire cat's, paving way for privatisation of NHS

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  • Second class medicine, advocated by a third rate government. Really on line consults are vastly inferior, superficial assessment at best, pandering to the worried well. God help the vulnerable, old and those with actual real pathology. That this is gaining traction is bad for General Practice and dangerous for patients,

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  • Vinci Ho

    If people/patients are willing to pay that £20 to ‘see a doctor’ , I would say ,’ whisper of words of wisdom , let it be.’
    For Babylon, CCGs just need to cut their tariff for each patient encounter . Let them ‘peanut picking ‘ , by all means .

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  • Excellent idea - market forces taking over and hopefully it will reduce reliance on NHSE selective budgeting of Practices. BMEs rejoice - parity nigh!

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  • Frankly I think its all over. This is a house of cards waiting to fall. I have the same feeling now as I did about the NHS pension scheme - I was one of the first to leave that. Time to leave before the rush and I am saddled with a bust business?

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  • AlanAlmond

    fed up | GP Partner/Principal04 Apr 2018 12:12pm
    I’m completely with you. House of cards. We’re talking about the complete restructuring of primary care. More opportunities for private work ok, but don’t kid yourself this is designed with anything but consumerism in mind. It’s going to cost the country collectively a lot of money. Health care is expensive, this is only going to make it more so. Convenience costs. We can’t afford the current inconvenient service so we decided to opt for a more expensive convenient one instead. But convenient who for? The ill or the well? Seems to me making health care super easy for the worried well diverting resources from those who are actually ill is the wrong path to take. Who cares hey, I want it all, I want more and I want it now.

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  • Undoubtedly virtual healthcare is the way that things will go. It has happened with most other service deliveries models. It is expanding in the legal profession. Veterinary medicine is already moving this way. Amazon and it’s Chinese equivalent, Alibaba are causing complete disruption to standard retail shops. Having done it in my own practice for many years, despite what people say, it definitely leads to greater productivity, once both patients and clinicians get used to it. The problem that I found was that patients love the service and the result is the on line consultation rate goes through the roof. Fine if GPs were paid per consultation, but they are not. I wonder if Babylon and now Push Doctor are being given extra financial resources from NHSE?

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