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Virtual GP service providers now expected to open up surgeries too

Move seeks to address concerns over "cherry-picking"

Private providers of “virtual GP” services will be expected to open up local doctors’ practices to treat those who want to be seen face-to-face.

Matt Hancock, the Health Secretary has stressed that every patient should be offered smartphone consultations, as part of efforts to put the NHS on a “digital first” footing.

Today, NHS England has released proposals to change how GP practices are remunerated. The plans also say that every virtual company will have to set up local practices.

But the rise in popularity of primary care services delivered via smartphones, laptops and desktop computers has raised concerns that traditional GP practices will come under increasing pressure as tech companies “cherrypick” younger, more digital-savvy patients while leaving face-to-face GPs to deal with more complex cases.

Dr Richard Vautrey, chairman of the BMA’s GP committee, said this week that England would soon be facing a shortage of 7,000 GPs.

However, moves by companies including Babylon – already used in the private medical insurance sector and being rolled out across the NHS – have raised concerns among some doctors that access to primary care will become patchy.

Today’s announcement looks to address some of those concerns, urging companies that provide virtual GP services to open up physical surgeries to help to ensure equity of access.