If you’re desperate to see a GP, Hunt’s new scheme will make you pay

Jessica Gay

A new scheme has been launched which enables people to skip queues in GP surgeries and have an on-demand doctor visit them in their own home. Within 90 minutes. The only catch — it costs £120.

The service

The new ‘private primary care’ service, developed by GP Delivered Quick (GPDQ), involves people ‘booking’ a doctor via a smartphone app. They select a date and time for them to visit. Each consultation lasts around 25 minutes and the doctors are on call seven days a week between 8am and 11pm.

But if you’re desperate to see a doctor, it’ll cost you. To book a 25-minute weekday consultation costs £120. For weekend visits, it’s £150. And for a bank holiday, £200!

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The service, which has been approved by Care Quality Commission (the health regulator which Jeremy Hunt effectively controls), launched in London in 2015. It has now recently been rolled out across Birmingham.

The man behind the app

Dr Anshumen Bhagat is the North London GP behind the app. After working 15 years in the NHS and in private healthcare, Bhagat decided to launch the app to provide greater flexibility for patients. He said:

This is digitising the home visit – it really is that simple. Patients benefit from speed and flexibility, with the ability to see a doctor when and where it suits them, booking and tracking their GP through their smartphone. Our 25-minute appointments allow for a more in-depth consultation, whilst our two-hour prescription delivery service provides an extra level of convenience.

Regarding how GPs will benefit from the service, Bhagat continued:

It also enables all GPs in the UK to see patients on a private basis, work flexibly, and earn extra income in the process – they’re essentially running a virtual clinic through our state of the art mobile platform.

While the price of a consultation does include written prescriptions and referrals, the fact that this app prioritises those with money is troubling. £120, for example, is a lot of money. Especially for those on benefits and low incomes, and for children and elderly people. Also, London and Birmingham (where the service has been rolled out) have some of the highest levels of poverty in the UK.  27% of people in London and 37% of children in Birmingham live in poverty. Given this, it’s almost impossible for society’s most vulnerable to afford this service.

GPs

According to the app’s website, “every GPDQ doctor must meet our high standards of clinical experience and patient care”. As well as this, each doctor “continue[s] to work within the NHS”.

But with Hunt cutting NHS budgets left, right and centre, it questions whether the NHS will even exist in a couple years. The cuts have already forced many local practices to close, much to the delight of private healthcare services (like Virgin Care), which have been snapping them up.

So while the service secures a role for GPs if the NHS goes under, it does little to provide for those who depend on national heath care. The service, which has been approved under Hunt’s watch, gives us another indication of how the Health Secretary envisages future health care.

So far, it involves sucking the NHS dry, overexerting doctors, and shaking hands with billionaire privateers. Sadly, it’s the same tale. And we’re wondering how he’s still able to get away with it.

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Featured image via Flickr

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