A new service has been launched to enable NHS patients to access 24-hour care from a registered GP. The app, GP at Hand, allows patients to look up their symptoms via their smartphones before having a consultation with a doctor via a video link.
The app also allows users to book appointments at any time of the day or night, and has made it easier to access NHS prescriptions. GPs can now send them straight to a pharmacy of your choice at the end of your consultation.
The free service, which was set up by a group of London GPs and online healthcare provider Babylon, initially covers 3.5 million patients in the Greater London area.
Too good to be true?
Despite its convenient premise, the app has come under fire from the Royal College of GPs, who suggest that patients with more complex symptoms and health related problems will not receive adequate treatment. They also suggested that the app might alienate older patients, who may also prefer the security of booking an appointment with their local GP, rather than using a smartphone to make an appointment with a GP that they don’t know.
While the app aims to reduce waiting times, the Royal College of GPs is also concerned that users will be unable to book appointments with their local GP is they are dissatisfied with the service that they receive. There is also a concern that the app will also put undue pressure on traditional GPs within the community.
Out of hours alternatives
There are alternative ways to make an appointment with a GP via a smartphone. If you live in the East Berkshire area and need to contact a doctor outside of surgery hours for a non-emergency, call 111. For emergencies, call 999 and request an ambulance.
The NHS 111 team will ask you a series of questions to assess your symptoms and to ensure that they offer the correct advice. They will then direct you to the most suitable service for your needs, which could include:
- a trip to A&E
- an out of hours doctor
- a primary or urgent care centre
- a walk-in centre
- a community nurse
- an emergency dentist
- a late-opening chemist
Where possible, the NHS 111 adviser will book you an appointment, or if they believe your symptoms are serious then they will call an ambulance on your behalf. If your call is transferred to a doctor or nurse, they may book you an appointment at either a primary or urgent care centre.
Other suggestions include attending a minor injuries unit without an appointment, or a home visit from a GP. In many cases, you will always be encouraged to visit with your own GP or Pharmacist.
Visiting a Primary Care Centre
If the NHS 111 adviser believes that the best course of action is for you to visit an out of hours doctor for a face-to-face consultation, arrangements may be made for you to attend a primary care centre. These are different from walk-in-centres, as you cannot attend without an appointment.
Currently, the NHS can neither pick up a patient to attend a primary care centre, nor reimburse their transport costs, meaning that many patients must organise their own travel arrangements.
In East Berkshire, primary care centres include:
Visiting an Urgent Care Centre
If the NHS 111 adviser believes the best course of action for you is to see a nurse to get quick treatment for a minor ailment or injury, arrangements may be made for you to attend an urgent care centre. Unlike a primary care centre, your injury should be less than 48 hours old, or your symptoms should have started displaying within the last 48 hours.
Finding a Doctor
Your local GP or doctor’s surgery provides a wide variety of family health services. This includes getting advice on health problems, vaccinations, examinations and treatments, as well as prescriptions, and referrals to other health and social services.
Most local surgeries can provide family planning and contraception services, pregnancy care, child health checks and immunisations, as well as personal checks and health screening services such as smear tests, minor operations and procedures.
For more information about EBPCOOH Service please visit our website.