Digital ‘GP at Hand’ is ‘drain’ on other surgeries warn Hackney Keep our NHS Public campaigners

The GP at Hand website

The GP at Hand website - Credit: nhs

Health campaigners have urged Hackney Council to oppose the rollout of a digital GP service – saying it could undermine traditional doctors’ practices across the borough.

Marion McAlpine and Shirley McGrath from Hackney Keep Our NHS public said at a scrutiny committee meeting on Tuesday night that they want the council to help “publicise the risks” associated with GP At Hand – including the fact people would automatically be deregistered from their usual practices if they joined up.

NHS adverts for the service promise quick access to an NHS GP via a mobile phone, and an app uses an artificial intelligence (AI) symptom checker.

But because the service will not take on anyone who is pregnant, frail, elderly, terminally ill or with complex mental health or drug problems, there are fears its private business model will drain NHS general practice by “cherry-picking” healthy, young people.

“This means the GP practices they were signed up to would get less funding, leaving local GPs poorer and with sicker patients,” explained the campaigners.

“Normal GP practices get the same sum of money per year per patient – whether they are young or old, healthy or sick. They aren’t allowed to pick and choose.” They claim this would have “the worst impact on the poorest, sickest and most immobile”.

However the NHS director of primary care delivery Dominic Hardy said that with a growing patient demand for such services, the adoption and acceleration of digital services is “indeed part of the future for primary care”.

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He continued: “I understand that the GP At Hand service has presented some challenges because of its novel service model.

“However, it has undoubtedly proved an attractive service to patients who have found accessing traditional general practice difficult.

“With regard to the concern that patients are not being advised that they will be deregistered from their existing practice, this issue has been investigated by our London team and the registration process involves patient acceptance of three separate warning messages advising them they are consenting to leave their current GP practice.”

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