Former NHS Improvement chair Ed Smith will join a new board of senior government and NHS figures advising private digital GP company Push Doctor.

In a statement provided to HSJ, the Manchester-based company said Mr Smith will chair a new strategy and governance advisory board advising the company, that will include former health minister Nicola Blackwood and three NHS trust board members.

The board would provide the company with advice on regulation, governance and a strategy to “expand its digital health services”.

Push Doctor is one of a slew of companies, such as Babylon and Now Healthcare, that have sprung up offering GP video consultation services.

However, unlike some of its competitors, Push Doctor does not currently have a prominent presence in the NHS, and is based predominantly on a pay-as-you go or subscription model. The company would not comment specifically on any current or future NHS business.

Speaking to HSJ, Ms Blackwood said the advisory board would help improve governance at Push Doctor and provide NHS expertise.

“Part of that is in response to the recommendations of the CQC and part of that is in response to Push Doctor’s substantial growth.”

Push Doctor’s last CQC inspection, in March 2017, raised concerns about the safety and effectiveness of the service but also noted areas of improvement.

In January this year, Lincolnshire West Clinical Commissioning Group and Lincolnshire Community Health Services Trust complained to the company after they become aware of it advertising using the physical address of Lincoln Walk-In Centre, which was due to be closed.

Push Doctor has since changed the advert to avoid “confusion”. 

On the company’s website 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, below a Push Doctor “online walk-in centre”, which is coloured green.

A Push Doctor consultation costs £20 for 10 minutes. It also charges an £8 administration fee for prescriptions which are private and need to be paid for by the customer.

In a statement on his appointment to the board, Mr Smith said: ”The depth and breadth of knowledge and experience we have across the advisory board is a valuable asset for Push Doctor.”  

Board members are:

  • Ed Smith, former chair, NHS Improvement 
  • Nicola Blackwood, former health minister 
  • Christine Outram, chair, The Christie FT
  • Dr Kathryn Patrick, primary care director, Yeovil District Hospital
  • Dr Marc Farr, information director, East Kent Hospitals University FT
  • Michael Lennox, member of NHS England local professional network for pharmacy
  • Matthew Campbell-Hill, non-executive director, Department of Digital, Culture, Media and Sport