NHS in London to offer smartphone GP appointments

8th November 2017

The NHS in London is piloting a 24-hour service offering GP consultations via videolink on smartphones. The pilot scheme will initially cover 3.5 million patients in greater London.

The new free service has been launched by a group of London GPs and the online healthcare provider Babylon. Under the plans, patients will be able to check their symptoms through the mobile app and then have video consultations within two hours of booking. 

Patients joining the pilot scheme will leave their existing practice, with their records transferred to a group of five central London surgeries.

The Royal College of GPs has warned the service may not help patients with complex needs, and may be luring GPs away from front-line general practice at a time when GPs are struggling to cope with existing workloads.

Commenting on the launch of the project, Prof Helen Stokes-Lampard, chair of the RCGP said: “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.

“We notice there is an extensive list of patient conditions such as frailty, pregnancy and mental health conditions that are the essence of general practice, and which GPs deal with every day, but which are not eligible for this service.”

Dr Mobasher Butt, GP at Hand partner, 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.

“With the NHS making use of this technology, we can put patients in front of a GP within minutes on their phone, so the days of ringing frantically at 8am for an appointment should be long gone.

“This new NHS service makes it easier for patients to see a doctor quickly at any time and from anywhere and doesn’t cost the NHS a penny more. It’s a win-win.”

Jayne Partridge, Support Nurse at Cardiomyopathy UK said: “Hopefully this will offer patients a more flexible option in healthcare, but it’s important to recognise those with complex needs may still prefer the traditional surgery approach to manage their needs. Only time will tell if schemes like this provide the flexibility to accessing health care in the future and catch symptoms earlier.”