Comment

Doctaly won’t put a plaster on NHS crisis – it will damage it more

By Kitty Knowles 14 November 2016
Doctaly will not help the NHS. Pic:iStock/LattaPictures
Doctaly will not help the NHS. Pic:iStock/LattaPictures
Summary

Another app is not the answer to underpaid overworked staff.

Doctaly helps family doctors to earn an extra £21,000 by seeing private patients on the side.

Its no news that going private will help doctors to boost their income, but what’s ridiculous is this seems to be touted as a solution to our underpaid, understaffed NHS.

It’s not.

Destablising?

Dr Dinesh Silva, the co-founder of Doctaly, said: “We do not want to destabilise general practice . . . This is increasing the capacity within the infrastructure that is there already because, if that doctor wasn’t working, that room would be empty.”

Sorry Dr Silva, it doesn’t work like that.

Doctaly may think of itself as a sharing service because its consultations take place in NHS surgeries, but this in not a two-way street.

Yes doctors will be paid, but time and energy is being taken directly from the NHS – with nothing given back in return.

Bad news for everyone

Today doctors have to fight for fair pay, and too often work inhumanly long shifts that leave them crippled.

Inviting GPs to work through their lunch-breaks or moonlight outside of hours will only make this worse.

Apps like Doctaly offer an elite service where the wealthy pay extra cash to jump the queue (Doctaly appointments cost between £39.99-£69.99), but actually everyone loses out.

But we will all receive a subpar treatments if doctors are enticed into working even longer days.

Dr Richard Vautrey, GP committee deputy chairman at the British Medical Association (BMA), voiced his own fears:

“The BMA does have concerns as to whether patients are able to get a safe, effective assessment from this type of service,” he said.

“It is also important that the government does not see these private sector developments as an excuse to further reduce funding to the NHS.”

The bigger picture

Right now we face a rising problem, as many wait weeks to see their GP on the NHS.

In fact, the Royal College of General Practitioners (RCGP) has warned that by 2020-21 there will be 52m occasions when patients will not be able to get an appointment with their GP.

But if we want the best healthcare for everyone we must invest in the NHS, we have to ensure that GPs don’t need to turn to private healthcare for money, and they are able to offer high-quality service to all.

A quick digital fix for the rich that overlooks the bigger picture is never going to be enough.

UPDATE: The Doctaly team asked if we would include a statement from them. This is as follows…

“Doctaly co-founder, Dr Dinesh Silva, has worked for nine years as an NHS GP and has first-hand experience of the issues facing GPs, patients and the NHS. Before launching Doctaly Dr Silva and co-founder Ben Teichman undertook extensive interviews with a range of GPs who all shared the view that their jobs and lives would be greatly improved given the opportunity to work flexibly and earn additional income at times that work for them. For example, a GP who works part-time to juggle the cost of childcare and work commitments can choose to fit extra appointments around their personal schedules, whether that be on some weekends or in the evening when their partner returns home from work – without being tied into a rigid schedule.

Doctaly works by partnering with NHS practices. It gives GPs the option of offering affordable private appointments if they choose to, and provides patients with the choice to book an appointment at a time that suits them, also allowing them to specify location, language spoken and gender.  The service does not detract from the NHS in any way nor does it compromise a GPs existing NHS commitments. It’s about working together to alleviate some of the pressure and to provide choice for both GPs and patients.”