Private online GP provider Push Doctor has partnered with two primary care networks in Birmingham, giving 88,000 NHS patients access to video consultations.
In the announcement today, Push Doctor said it agreed a deal with ‘Urban Health’ and ‘I3’ primary care networks, which cover 13 practices in the Birmingham area.
This means it now covers huge swathes of the region after the private provider signed a deal with West Midlands-based super-practice Modality in September last year to cover a quarter of its 400,000 patients – which also included practices in Yorkshire, London and the South East.
But local leaders warned that the technology is spreading too quickly, with a lack of evidence.
Push Doctor explained the new arrangement will ‘initially be piloted at the Halcyon Medical surgery in central Birmingham, with the intention to roll out to its other practices in due course’.
The service works by offering patients the option of a virtual consultation with Push Doctor GPs when they go to book their usual face-to-face appointments with their practice.
Chair of Urban Health and partner at Broadway Health Centre Dr Imran Zaman said: ‘The NHS long-term plan lays out ambitions to provide a service fit for the future. I believe that digital health is a key component of this strategy.’
‘People don’t live nine-to-five lives and by offering them video consultations we hope we will be able to provide expert medical guidance in a convenient and professional, patient-centred manner,’ he added.
Push Doctor chief executive officer Wais Shaifta said: ‘Practices can leverage our pool of quality doctors and reduce the burden on their teams.’
According to the announcement, Mr Shaifta plans to make Push Doctor services available to ‘75% of the population within five years through such partnerships with the NHS’.
This move was criticised by Labour’s shadow cabinet office minister MP Jon Trickett who called it ‘yet another shocking example of the revolving door between highly paid advisory roles and lobbying, and the Government’.
However, it was shortly followed by the news that then NHS England chief digital officer Juliet Bauer was leaving her job to join private online GP provider LIVI.
Last November, LIVI partnered with a GP federation of 40 practices in North-West Surrey, to provide video consultations to 360,000 patients.
But Walsall GP and LMC medical secretary Dr Uzma Ahmad said she is ‘concerned’ this new technology is being promoted too quickly, without clear evidence as to how it relieves GP pressure.
She said: ‘I’m concerned that this technology is spreading so quickly, across so many areas, when there is a lack of evidence that it really relieves demand for GP services. My fear is that this will only create new demand.’
‘There also needs to be more transparency when it comes to people moving from roles within the Government to roles in these private companies, and the other way around,’ Dr Ahmad added.