A virtual, digital GP isn’t a concept from a sci-fi movie; it’s a new service that many private and public health providers are now offering to patients to relieve pressure on traditional medical services. In this article, we explain what you need to know about accessing digital GP services, how the NHS use the services – and about private health insurance providers who offer this service to their policyholders.
It’s no secret that accessing a GP in the UK can be difficult. A 2019 BBC report found that there can be as much as a threefold difference in GP accessibility between areas of the UK. For example, in an area of Kent, there was just one GP per every 3,300 patients – whilst in Rushcliffe Nottingham – there was one GP per every 1,200 patients.
To try and make access easier, the NHS and many private health insurers are now providing digital GP services.
What is a digital GP service?
A digital (or virtual) GP service provides users with access to a GP consultation via a video or phone call.
Digital GP Services in the NHS
LIVI is a digital GP app which is available to NHS patients in Birmingham, Shropshire, Northamptonshire and parts of the South East. Patients eligible for the service, still remain patients of their physical GP practice – but with the app, can request medical advice, prescriptions, fit notes and referrals during and out of practice hours.
The service is not designed to replace physical GP appointments completely. Instead, it is said to relieve pressure on GPs during practice hours and makes services more flexible for patients who may not be able to attend appointments during work hours.
LIVI released figures from a recent NHS GP survey, showing a 28% drop in the number of patients reporting they went directly to A&E, after being unable to secure a physical GP appointment.
The current 5-year plan is that all GP practices are expected to make online consultations available by April 2020, and video consultations available by April 2021.
Digital GP Services in Private Health Insurance
Many private health insurance providers are now offering digital GP appointments to their policyholders.
The Aviva Digital GP app is currently available to those with Aviva Private Medical Insurance. Those eligible for the service can access GP consultations ‘around the clock’ – or can opt to use the ‘ask a question’ feature. The app also makes it easier for users to access pharmacy services and to arrange repeat NHS prescriptions.
New Bupa policyholders are able to access a digital GP via a service called Babylon. The Babylon app provides users with 24/7 access to a GP via a phone app. Users are able to book live video consultations, at a time which suits them. This Digital GP service is available to all new Bupa customers – and to those who renew their policies in 2020.
AXA policyholders can access GP video and phone call consultations via a service called Doctor@Hand service. Those with a ‘Personal Health’ plan policy are entitled to 5 free 20 minute GP phone or video consultations.
Nuffield provides access to digital GPs via their ‘Virtual GP service’. Policyholders eligible for the service are able to secure an online video or phone consultation with a GP between the 8am and 10 pm in the UK, 365 days a year. Users of the service are able to request specific GPs they may have spoken to before, or to see a male or female doctor if preferred.
Find a PMI Policy with a Digital GP Service
If you’re looking to find or renew health insurance cover, we can help. Our team of 100% independent experts are on-hand to provide you with free advice so you can find the best and most suitable cover.
If you’re looking for cover which provides you with access to a digital GP service, we can help. We’ll search the whole of the UK market to find a policy which provides you with the access you want and need.
Fill in our online quote request form or call 0808 10 18 999.