A virtual GP service which offers video consultations to patients via their smartphones 24 hours a day should not be subject to a “postcode lottery.”
Health Secretary Matt Hancock said the GP At Hand service should be “available to all”, regardless of where they live.
Currently, only patients who live or work in various locations in London can sign up to the service. It was created with healthcare technology firm Babylon Health.
The virtual GP service offers a booking system through a smartphone app. Users are promised a video consultation with a doctor within two hours of booking.
If a patient needs a face-to-face appointment they must travel to clinics in commuter hubs.
Speaking to the Daily Telegraph Matt Hancock said: “GP At Hand is revolutionary. It works brilliantly for so many patients and goes with the grain of how people access modern services.
“I want to see GP At Hand available to all, not based on their postcode. Where a new service challenges the system, the right response isn’t to reject the new service but to change the system. The current postcode lottery cannot continue.”
The service has proved controversial since it was launched in the capital last year, and has been accused of “cherry-picking” healthy patients.
Plans to expand the scheme to Birmingham have also been blocked by NHS clinical commissioning groups (CCGs). The chief executive of Birmingham and Solihull CCG objected “on the grounds of clinical safety”.
But Matt Hancock believes the virtual GP service should be rolled out across the UK. He said: “Where there are challenges you’ve got to make sure the rules are changed to take that into account. The wrong solution would be to say, ‘These new technologies have no place, they are disrupting things.”
Is a virtual GP service for you?
Would you use a virtual GP service? I know I would. After all, getting to see your own GP in person is almost impossible nowadays. Unless you have the ability to know you’re going to be ill three weeks in advance.
Bring it on I say.
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