General practitioner England

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Smartphone app an erosion of doctor-patient relationship

Mobile and devices
HANDY SERVICE: The GP at Hand service offers patients a booking system through an app

A smartphone GP service would divert patients away from doctors who know them – and could risk quality and continuity of care, doctors leaders have said.

It comes as a new service, called GP at Hand created by technology firm Babylon Health, which offers a GP consultation via smartphone 24 hours a day, has launched in London.

BMA GPs committee chair Richard Vautrey said: ‘While these proposals appear to be focused on making access to a GP easier, in reality it will divert patients away from their GP and practice and leaves them receiving care from doctors who don’t know them as well as their own GP would do.’

The GP at Hand service offers patients a booking system, through an app, which pledges to provide a video consultation with a GP within two hours of the booking being made. Patients then have to travel to a clinic if they need a face-to-face appointment.

The service cannot be used in addition to a GP – patients must to register with GP at Hand and give up their GPs.

Royal College of GPs chair Helen Stokes-Lampard said her organisation was worried the scheme – and other similar ones – would ‘create a twin-track approach’ to general practice, with patients cherry-picked and pressure on traditional GPs actually increasing.

She added: ‘While this scheme is backed by the NHS and offers a free service to patients, it is undoubtedly luring GPs away from frontline general practice at a time when we are facing a severe workforce crisis and hardworking GPs are struggling to cope with immense workloads.’

GP at Hand partner Mobasher Butt said: ‘We do everything from grocery shopping to our banking online yet when it comes to our health, it can still take weeks to see a doctor and often means taking time off work for an appointment.’

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