It’s not unusual for private medical services to offer the option of a video consultation with a doctor – for a fee. But Britain’s National Health Service (NHS) is piloting a scheme which lets 3.5 million patients get access to video consultations at no cost …
The BBC reports that patients who want to take part in the scheme need to leave their existing doctor’s surgery and have their records transferred to one of five central London ones.
They will start by using a mobile app to check their symptoms, with a video consultation then offered within two hours. As with existing in-person consultations, there is no charge, with the service funded from taxes.
Dr Mobasher Butt, who is part of the team behind the GP at Hand service, told BBC Radio’s Today programme: “It’s high time that NHS patients were given the opportunity to benefit from technology to improve access to healthcare.
“We’ve benefited from this kind of technology in so many different aspects of our lives, whether that be shopping or banking, and it’s really time that we were able to do that in healthcare for NHS patients.”
Jane Barnacle, director of patients and information at NHS England London, said GP practices were right to carefully test innovative new technologies that could improve free NHS services for their patients while also freeing up staff time.
The Royal College of General Practitioners has, however, raised concerns about the service.
Prof Helen Stokes-Lampard, who chairs the RCPG, said: “We are really worried that schemes like this are creating a twin-track approach to NHS general practice and that patients are being ‘cherry-picked’, which could actually increase the pressures on traditional GPs based in the community.
“We understand that with increasingly long waiting times to see a GP, an online service is convenient and appealing, but older patients and those living with more complex needs want continuity of care and the security of their local practice where their GPs know them.
It’s currently limited to London, and you can check your eligibility here.