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NHS to offer GP appointments via smartphone

Published on 06/11/17 at 09:45am

It has been announced that I trial will begin in London offering the public GP consultations through their smartphone. The service will be provided by an app called GP at hand that will allow patients to arrange same-day video consultations.

The idea behind the app is to relieve pressure from the front-line staff at GP practices whilst also allowing for greater convenience for those who are unable to take time away from work to attend an appointment in person.

The service will be made available 24 hours a day, seven days a week and the company behind the service, Babylon, suggests that the appointments could be made in as little as two hours.

GP at hand will be able to provide a symptom-checker before initiating a call. Once the call has begun, the website suggests that the patient may need to use the camera to show symptoms, such as skin rashes or ‘simple checks’.

One aspect that is open to question is that such a ‘check’ could include feeling the glands on the neck. This would, seemingly, open up the possibility for patients to be depended upon for self-diagnosis.

Another issue that has been raised about the potential for the service is that it could divide the public into those who are technologically au fait and those, more often the older generation, who are not.

Professor Helen Stokes-Lampard, Chair of the Royal College of GPs, said: “Some patients will see this as a ‘golden ticket’ to get quick and easy access to a GP - and for younger, healthier commuters it could prove a solution to long waiting times for an appointment. Technology can achieve wonderful things when used properly, but 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.”

Stokes-Lampard called for greater funding to be put into the service rather than relying on solutions from private companies.

In the interim period, the pilot scheme will be rolled out in Fulham to approximately 3.5 million individuals.

Ben Hargreaves

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