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Private GP Services

A recent analysis, carried out for the BBC, shows that across the UK, the number of GPs relative to the size of the population has fallen in a sustained way for the first time since the 1960s. And, if we take account of demographic changes over time, such as an ageing population, it may in fact mean that the ratio of GPs to patients would need to actually rise to keep up with need.

The outcome of this is that it is now harder than ever before to see a GP and as a result, increasing numbers of employers are now providing their employees with access to online GP services.

So what is a private GP service and how do you provide access for your employees?

Over the last few years, we have seen a surge of online GP services coming into the workplace which provide employees with access via an app on their phone or online via their computer. The apps are designed to offer a convenient way to speak to a GP to discuss new or ongoing medical concerns and the doctor can try to make a diagnosis, offer advice and even write a prescription. These services offer fast and accessible GP appointments and usually offer a definitive treatment. This means that employees are offered treatment at an earlier, often less serious, point in their illness, which in turn supports their speedy return to work.

Most online services offer video or text-based appointments within a short timeframe of one to two hours. An at-home “virtual” appointment may also be more convenient with online GP providers reporting that the majority of patients get the help needed without the need to see a doctor in person.

“Generally, these online GP services are embedded as value-added services within plans from large insurers such as BUPA, AXA-PPP, Vitality and BHSF but they can also be purchased as a standalone employee benefit product,” explains IHC consultant, Paul Roberts. “IHC works with clients to ensure that they get the most value from these types of services.”

“From a presenteeism perspective, an online GP service means employees have immediate access to a GP through work and are therefore more able and productive at work. It’s also about improving accessibility and removing barriers so that employees can get early treatment before they become too ill to stay in work.

“It’s a really cost effective, all workforce, solution that can also be provided for employees for as little as £5 per head per year as a standalone product. The benefit for employers is that it empowers absence management, it empowers line management, who can refer employees for treatment and when it is embedded through another product, it also provides essential links from primary through to secondary care ensuring a seamless service,” said Paul.

An example of this type of service is the Vitality GP which is available to all VitalityHealth members at no extra cost. The service includes 20 minute consultations, seamless onward referral to specialist services, a direct link to discounted face-to-face GP services if required and consultation bookings up to 48 hours into the future providing greater flexibility to members.

“As an all workforce solution, it also meets the different varied needs of a wide workplace demographic and suits the different ways in which they like to access services,” explains Paul.

Many GP services, for example, provide a blended approach mixing telephone and online services. While online and chat room services suit ‘phone-phobic’ millennials, older employees who prefer to speak to someone on the phone can access phone or video call services.

“This is a trend that we are also seeing across other employee wellbeing services, such as EAPs,” added Paul.

The latest usage stats from two IHC clients demonstrate the benefit that this type of service can deliver for the business.

One of IHC’s banking clients, for example, uses a GP service for all employees and has 971 employees enrolled. From 2018 to 2019, this client saw usage increase by an impressive 30%. Further analysis shows that almost 1 in 3 GP consultations resulted in a referral to a consultant and 72% were resolved on the call and or a prescription was sent.

Similarly, IHC has been working with an online fashion retailer across a range of employee benefits. When reviewing the online GP service, it found that nearly all the GP cases were resolved on the first call with 81% of employees receiving the required advice, information and support over the phone.

To find out more about how an online GP service could benefit your business, contact your IHC consultant.

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