By Tony Collins
GPs have mixed views on a new service that allows paying patients to book a private GP appointment online.
People can use the “Doctaly” website to choose a GP and book a 15-minute appointment slot, paying from £39.99 to £69.99 depending on the time and day of the week, GP magazine Pulse reports today (16 September 2016).
The Doctaly website says:
“Why wait for an appointment? See a private GP near you today, from £39.99.” People can specify the appointment type requested, and have the option of giving their postcode.
The booking process requires the patient to confirm that they are not registered with the particular GP practice they choose.
Patients are also advised that Doctaly does not provide emergency care, and that patients needing care for psychological problems or long-term condition management are better off going to their regular GP who understands their medical history.
After a Doctaly consultation, the GP will give the patient a printed copy of the consultation notes. It’s up to the patient to decide whether to share the information with their NHS GP.
The new service has caused a stir among GPs in general, judging by the comments on Pulse’s website. Some GPs have welcomed the service, in part because it will enable them to earn extra money in their spare time. They point out that consultants who work for the NHS and see paying patients privately have long had to juggle NHS and private appointments.
Other GPs say the service will destabilise the NHS, and may make it harder for non-paying patients to see their GP. They call the new service “queue-jumping”.
Doctaly has been running for the past month at ten practices in Barnet and Enfield, with around 50 GPs signed up to offer appointments at various times, reports Pulse. The new service doesn’t employ any GPs. Instead GPs give Doctaly a list of their available appointments.
Company founder Ben Teichman told Pulse that the service should “help drive queues down in surgeries and also take traffic away from A&E”.
Success of the national roll-out will depend to a large extent on how many GPs register appointments with the service. At the moment it’s unclear how much GP support the service will get.