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A new NHS GP service to allow patients to have a video consultation via their smartphone may undermine traditional surgeries, say doctor’s leaders.

According to The Times, GPs in Fulham, west London, had partnered with Babylon, a private company to provide the virtual service.

Richard Vautrey, chairman of the British Medical Association GP committee, said: “While these proposals appear to be focused on making access to a GP easier, in reality it will divert patients away from their GP and practice and leaves them receiving care from doctors who don’t know them as well as their own GP would do”.

He added that the service was run “by a private company that is primarily cherry-picking younger, generally healthier people and excluding many others. It will do nothing to help the growing number of older, vulnerable patients who need well-funded services that can provide the specialist care they need in the community.”

The service, to be named ‘GP at Hand’, also raised concerns with The Royal College of GPs.

They predict the service would lure away doctors to deal with commuters while leaving surgeries to cope with the frail elderly and mentally ill.

However, NHS England, which has signed off the scheme locally, pointed out that GPs were paid a premium for each older person on their lists.

Michael Macdonnell, NHS England’s national director of transforming health systems, wrote on Twitter “Yes there are risks but the answer to these can’t be to ignore the potential of online consultants.”

Matt Noble, a partner with GP at Hand, denied it was cherry-picking patients. He said: “We probably see a few more young people because perhaps it appeals to them more, but it’s pretty similar in terms of the conditions we see to routine general practice.

“I was very much imagining it would be young commuters but I was surprised by how many other people were interested, particularly young families. If one child is unwell you don’t want to have to drag the other children to the waiting room.”

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