I wasn't very well last week. This was really rather annoying as we were just back from a lovely holiday in Wales and I had plenty of work to catch up on. So when I woke up on Sunday morning to find I had cellulitis on my leg, I was not best pleased. (note: not cellulite, this is a bit more serious, a staph aureus skin infection requiring antibiotics). The small scratch from the dog two weeks previously had left me with a red, hot, painful, infected swelling. In situations like this, being married to a cardiologist is no help at all. I wailed in frustration. How would I get an appointment at the GP during the week? How long would I have to sit in the waiting room? Should I call 111, or go to the walk-in centre in Woking? Then I remembered seeing a advert on TV for PushDoctor.co.uk - an online private GP.
Registration was easy and setting up the video contact was simple, almost 'hands-free'. I got an appointment for 10am last Sunday morning. The fee for 10 minutes is £25, then £15 for each 10 minutes thereafter. If a prescription is required, you pay £4.50.
Reminders are sent by text and email. At 10am, the doctor appeared by video call. She introduced herself and in a couple of minutes we had agreed my diagnosis was correct and I needed a course of antibiotics. She asked several questions regarding general health, medications and allergies before writing the prescription. This did take longer than I expected, I think some people don't talk and type very well, and my consultation ended at 10 minutes 13 seconds.
The prescription was emailed to me straight away and after a short delay for the security code to be sent by text, I was able to open the PDF document and print it out.
So far, so good. Except that when the statement arrived in my inbox, I had been charged £15 for another 10 minutes, for being 13 seconds over due to slow typing. There was no alert during the consultation to let me know that this would happen, although the small print does outline charges. Of course, I complained and the charge was reversed immediately, so my advice is to keep an eye on the time.
One other comment. I took a photo of my leg and wanted to upload this before the appointment. This isn't possible, so you are left trying to do it during the consultation, which didn't work for me.
During the registration process I was asked if I wanted my records shared with my GP. I chose not to. Why? I'm not sure. Perhaps because my relationship with my GP is simply on an ad hoc basis, as *touch wood* I don't have a chronic illness to manage. Perhaps because it might offend my GP that I chose this option. Perhaps because it is simply nothing to do with him, and I can't see why all aspects of my life should be recorded.
Anyway, the up-side of this process was that within a couple of hours of waking on a Sunday morning, I had a prescription and was on my way to the pharmacy. The pharmacist had never heard of PushDoctor.co.uk (better marketing to health professionals would help). The private prescription cost £4.50 plus £6 for the actual tablets. A small price to pay for starting to feel better straight away.
And how does the GP/out-of-hours service/walk-in centre/111/A&E/999/NHS fit in with this? Rather well, I think. There is a lot of choice for treatment and advice. It may not always be free or immediate, but everyone should be able to access an appropriate level of healthcare at any time of day or night.
Disclaimer: I did not receive any inducement or incentive from PushDoctor.co.uk to write this post. I am blogging about my experience because the face of healthcare provision is changing and the emphasis need not always be on GPs or the NHS.