A group of NHS GPs took part in a protest last week against the online appointment service, GP at Hand.
Ran by digital health company Babylon, GP at Hand offers 24/7 video consultations, prescription referrals and face-to-face appointments at a number of clinics across London.
The protest, held on 30 March, was organised by the Tower Hamlets arm of campaign group Keep Our NHS Public and took place outside of GP at Hand’s Poplar surgery.
Protestors claim that GP at Hand is increasing workloads for NHS GPs and is a threat to current funding models.
Organiser of the protest, Dr Jackie Applebee, Tower Hamlets Local Medical Committee chair said the service was causing problems for GPs.
She said: “Surgeries like my own are now getting lots of calls from angry former patients, who didn’t realise that by using GP at Hand they were de-registering from their usual surgery. Some are insisting on re-registering, causing a lot of extra work for our staff.
“This service takes money from the NHS, by picking the most profitable patients. They don’t want patients with complex mental health problems, drug problems, dementia, a learning disability or safeguarding needs. We think that’s because these patients are expensive.”
GP at Hand’s website lists the medical conditions it can treat but suggests that it is not suitable for treating emergencies.
A GP at Hand spokesman said: “People have the right to choose their NHS practice. GP at hand is an NHS service; paid for by the NHS; providing NHS services to all patients – just like the vast majority of GP practices throughout the UK. GP at hand offers GP appointments within minutes via smartphone, 24 hours-a-day, seven days-a-week, 365 days-a-year.
“Since its launch in November 2017, the service has attracted over 26,000 members and received over 8,700 5-star ratings for our digital appointments. Londoners clearly like GP at hand, which as a free-at-point-of-need NHS service, extends 24/7 primary healthcare access to more members of the public.”