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The NHS launches new digital pilot scheme

In a bid to move towards a digital future, the traditional National Health Service has decided to undertake a pilot scheme, which will see the launch of...

Catherine Sturman
|Nov 6|magazine7 min read

In a bid to move towards a digital future, the traditional National Health Service has decided to undertake a pilot scheme, which will see the launch of a new 24-hour GP consultation service. The service has been established by a number of London based GPs and online healthcare company Babylon.

Patients located in Fulham and Hammersmith, West London will be able to take part in the scheme, where they will gain the ability to speak to a medical professional by video link and discuss their symptoms, in order for a GP to ascertain whether urgent treatment is required.

Through the use of a mobile app named NHS GP, patients will be able to be speak with a professional within two hours of booking an appointment. In an age where obtaining a GP appointment can be challenging, the move is sure to be welcomed by those who are continually on the move, or want to discuss a minor ailment with a GP.

However, Professor Helen Stokes-Lampard, who chairs the Royal College of General Practitioners (RCGP) has responded by stating: "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.

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"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.”

With a number of patient needs which can often be complex, there are increased concerns by many that such symptoms of long-term health conditions could be missed through this process.

However, there is acknowledgement throughout the medical community that the use of technology has transformed the entirety of a patients’ everyday lives, and healthcare remains one of the few industries which has so far resisted all forms of digital innovation.

Nonetheless, the move to launch GP consultations through a patients’ smartphone is also part of Jeremy Hunt’s vision of a digital future within the delivery of patient care. With proposals for patients to also gain the ability to have access to their medical records via their smartphones, as well as book GP appointments and other advances through new, innovative technologies, the NHS is slowly moving in this direction.