A new Uber-style service offering patients a private same-day appointment with an NHS GP is to be rolled out nationally.
Doctaly allows patients to skip queues to see a doctor by allowing them to pay for medical care seven days a week.
It charges patients between £39.99 and £49.99 for an appointment during office hours, enabling patients to skip queues to see a doctor.
The cost rises to £69.99 for appointments out of hours, such as before 9am and after 6pm on weekdays and during the weekend
But critics say the service will create a two-tier health system, and is a step closer towards privatising the NHS.
Doctaly allows patients to skip queues to see a doctor by allowing them to pay for medical care seven days a week
The service has been piloted in north London at 10 practices in Barnet and Enfield – with 50 GPs currently signed up.
The service is similar to Uber in that it does not employ GPs itself but matches willing doctors working in their own surgeries with patients who can pay.
But it has proven so successful its founders now plan to roll it out, with national coverage expected by 2018.
Patients log on to the Doctaly website to book an appointment with an NHS GP at a time and location that is convenient to them.
They cannot see their own GP or one registered at their practice, but they can choose another doctor working nearby.
Consultations are for 15 minutes – around five minutes longer than a standard NHS one.
It charges patients between £40 and £50 for an appointment during office hours, enabling patients to skip queues to see a doctor. The cost rises to £70 for appointments out of hours
Founder Ben Teichman told Pulse magazine the service was not about queue-jumping and could stop patients unnecessarily going to A&E.
He said: ‘Doctaly is essentially a hybrid service between the NHS and existing private practice making private appointments more affordable, thereby opening them up to a wider audience.
‘It is not about queue-jumping. Quite the opposite in fact.
‘It should help drive queues down in surgeries and also take traffic away from A&E.
‘An A&E appointment can cost the NHS £150 and if access wasn’t an issue, many of these patients could have been successfully treated by a GP.’
He added the service was a ‘lucrative and convenient alternative’ for GPs who may want a few appointment if they have spare time.
Users have access to a number of private medical services including women’s health, child health, men’s health, private medicals, sexual health screening and private STD testing.
Dr Jackie Applebee, who sits on the British Medical Association’s (BMA) GPs committee, said Doctaly was ‘very worrying’ and would ‘further destabilise general practice’.
She told Pulse: ‘This sort of service is the slippery slope towards privatisation of the NHS.
‘This is not the answer to the crisis in general practice.
‘I acknowledge that access is a problem, but the fault for this lies at the door of the Government who have dis-invested in general practice for years so that we now have an unprecedented workforce crisis.
The service is similar to Uber in that it does not employ GPs itself but matches willing doctors working in their own surgeries with patients who can pay
‘It introduces the principle of topping up NHS services with purchased services if one has the disposal income.
‘If the more affluent begin to do this in significant numbers it is only a small step to an insurance-based health service.’
Dr Richard Vautrey, deputy chairman of the same committee, said: ‘Patients want and deserve a properly-funded NHS GP service, based on the registered list, so they can get appropriate timely access to their local GP.
‘While patients can access and pay for private GPs or consultants, the risk is a more fragmented service.’
He also warned patients would be having remote consultations with doctors they don’t know as well.