A new private GP service offering 10-minute video consultations via a video link for £25 has been launched, amid concerns from GPs about how effective it will be.
The new service – called Push Doctor – has a network of over 7,000 GPs who are available from 6am to 10pm for appointments, and works through an app that patients can download.
But GPs warn that such services ignore how essential physical examinations are, while the GPC said that patients will be forced to access these types of services privately until funding issues are resolved.
Under the service, patients can pay an extra £15 if they want to book a longer, 20 minute appointment, while online prescriptions will cost £4.50 and referral letters and Fit for Work notes incur a £12 charge.
Push Doctor Limited said the service is regulated by the CQC and manned by ‘experienced family doctors’ who have been ‘hand-picked and put through a rigorous verification and checking programme’.
It says the scheme will give patients more flexibility and convenience to book appointments outside of working hours, and ‘boasts the longest opening hours of any other service of this kind’.
However, Dr Peter Swinyard, chair of the Family Doctors Association, warned the online service would not be adequate for many consultations because ‘it is an essential part of the consultation to be able to perform a physical examination’.
Dr Swinyard explained: ‘Within limits it will be ok but even for something routine like prescribing contraception, I’d like to see a current blood pressure.’
He added: ‘There may be circumstances in which people will find it convenient – it will be a supplement to general practice but it’s not a replacement for it.’
Dr Beth McCarron-Nash, GPC member and a GP in Truro, said it was a ‘shame’ practices were not given similar levels of funding to provide more access to working age patients for minor illness.
Dr McCarron-Nash said: ‘I think it’s a real shame general practice isn’t funded to the same level – if it was then convenience might be affordable.’
She added: ‘I appreciate traditional general practice perhaps doesn’t offer all the solutions that the young mobile person with limited health issues would like, but if we had more money it would be a completely different board game.
‘This kind of access is the “Martini” form of general practice – “Any time, any place, anywhere”. Unless we address the fundamental workforce, workload and funding issues that are killing general practice in England then I’m afraid this sort of service will only continue to be available privately.’