GPs call for investigation into 'misleading' private appointments ads

Leading GPs have complained to the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) about 'misleading' ads by a private online GP service.

Dr Jackie Applebee: concern over online GP ads
Dr Jackie Applebee: concern over online GP ads

GP members of the Doctors in Unite union said in a letter to the press that they were ‘disturbed’ by posters on the London Underground for online service Push Doctor, which claim customers can access 'an NHS GP whenever you want’.

The GPs said the ads were ‘misleading’ because they did not mention the £20 per 10-minute appointment fee for the private service.

Push Doctor's website says customers can access a GP online within six minutes between 6am and 11pm 365 days a year. The service offers prescriptions, child consultations, sick notes, referrals and other services. Under an NHS logo the company says: 'Feeling unwell? Looking for advice? Speak with an NHS trained doctor in as little as six minutes'.

Online GP service

A petition set up by the campaigning group 38 Degrees calling on the ASA to investigate the ads has been signed by more than 80,000 people.

The petition draws attention to a CQC report on the Push Doctor service, which found it was 'not providing safe, effective or well-led services', although its service was 'caring and responsive'.

The June 2017 report found high-risk drugs had been prescribed without correct monitoring and tests as well as inappropriate prescribing. The CQC also criticised the Manchester-based provider’s IT systems and record keeping.

The company said at the time of the report that it disputed some of the findings.

In their letter Doctors in Unite chair Dr David Wrigley, deputy chairs Dr Jackie Applebee and Dr Coral Jones and secretary Dr Louise Irvine it was not apparent from Push Doctor’s ad that patients would have to pay £20 for an appointment.

Two-tier GP service

Dr Applebee, who represents Doctors in Unite on the GPC told GPonline services like Push Doctor were a ‘slippery slope towards a two-tier GP service’.

‘As more GPs opt to work in these private services it leaves even less of us to man the teetering NHS service, leading to a downward spiral,' she said.

‘That this service seeks to mislead people by stating that "you can see an NHS doctor" is disingenuous.’

Push Doctor CEO Eren Ozagir said: ‘We are aware of the online petition regarding our July advertisements. We want to make it clear that we wholeheartedly support the NHS and, like them, are working diligently to provide great healthcare to people in every part of the country, in the most convenient, safe and easy-to-access way possible.'

He added: ‘GPs on the Push Doctor platform are on the NHS performers list. We list our costs clearly on the front page of our website and within the app.’

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