A clinical commissioning group and NHS community trust have complained to an online GP consultation service about it using the address of an NHS walk in centre in its advertising.
Lincolnshire West CCG and Lincolnshire Community Health Services Trust wrote to Manchester based Push Doctor – a private online GP consultation service – after becoming aware of advertising using the physical address of Lincoln walk in centre, which is due to be closed.
The CCG and the trust told HSJ that in November they wrote separately to the company, raising concerns over how it was advertising its service.
They said the company appeared to be associating its own service with the walk in centre address. The CCG told HSJ the website had since been changed. At present, it correctly advertises the location of the NHS run walk in centre in Lincoln.
The CCG and trust have both made statements telling the local public that they have no commercial relationship with the company and it is not commissioned to provide services.
On the Push Doctor website at present, there is a page titled “Find a Walk in Centre” that can be used to search for physical NHS walk in centres across the country. It displays waiting times for these centres in red, alongside a Push Doctor “online walk in centre”, which is coloured green.
The website still has a page titled “Walk in Centre Lincoln” – and other cities – with the strap line: “Don’t sit for hours in a waiting room, see a private doctor online within minutes.”
The web page, also similar to those for other cities on the Push Doctor site, has images of Lincoln Cathedral as well as text saying: “Lincoln’s healthcare services cater for around 100,000 people each year. That’s a lot of patients, and can sometimes mean you face a bit of a wait when you visit a walk in centre. Push Doctor can connect you to a GP in minutes on your smartphone.”
A Lincolnshire West CCG spokesman confirmed it had complained that the Push Doctor website had advertised services using the walk in centre address.
He said: “Lincolnshire West CCG and Lincolnshire Community Health Services Trust contacted Push Doctor to raise concerns about what it was advertising to Lincolnshire patients on its website.
“Changes have been made to ensure there is no confusion regarding the information provided.”
He added: “[The CCG and the trust] would like to make it clear that we neither commission nor provide the Push Doctor service.
“Our recommendation to patients would be to seek medical advice from their local GP practice for best continuity of care. Alternatively, patients can call NHS 111 for further advice or a clinical assessment over the phone.”
Push Doctor is based in Manchester and has claimed more than 7,000 GPs have signed up to offer consultation services when not working for the NHS. It offers an online consultation service for around £20 for a 10 minute consultation. It also charges an £8 admin fee for prescriptions which are private and need to be paid for by the customer. It also charges £15 for a referral to an NHS specialist.
Mark Kelly, marketing director of Push Doctor, said: ”Push Doctor provides an alternative option for many people and believe our advertising clearly presented both alternatives to patients in Lincoln. However, we’ve further updated our marketing to ensure concerns have been addressed and any confusion removed so that customers can continue to make an informed choice.”
This article was updated at 10.40am to clarify the number of GPs said to be working with Push Doctor.
Information supplied to HSJ