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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’.