The Times revealed yesterday that a new ‘virtual’ GP service is being launched to offer video consultations within two hours over a smartphone.

Called ‘GP at Hand’, the new service, available to any patient in London, has been agreed to by NHS England which is reported as saying “GP practices are right to carefully test technologies that can improve free NHS services for patients while also freeing staff time.”

Critics are anxious about the possible impact of this new development on the existing, traditional GP practices, methods and services.

Concerns have been expressed about an array of possible negative effects of the new route to GP access, with the following criticisms:

• The service may be inaccessible by the elderly and mentally ill, and unsuitable to other groups such as pregnant women, thus effectively creating a two-tier system

• Many GPs may be diverted to the new service, thereby reducing access to services at traditional GP surgeries

• The new style of consultation will, in the view of Richard Vautrey, chairman of the British Medical Association GP committee, as quoted in The Times, “risk undermining the quality and continuity of care.”

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