GP practices across the UK are being offered the chance to trial technology to allow patients to book appointments and take part in video consultations.

Digital health company Now Healthcare Group plans to offer its bespoke technology, which cost £5 million to develop, as a free trial.

It is launching with five groups of NHS practices and one ‘very large’ practice in England in the next two months. It will also offer patients the chance to use its app-driven, repeat medicine delivery service, which is also free to NHS patients.

NHG is a private company based in Salford Quays which currently offers private online GP consultations through its app Now GP. It recently launched a £1.5 million ‘super-hub’ digital Pharmacy, Now Pharmacy, with the aim of dispensing and delivering up to 500,000 repeat medications per month.

“Finally, digital health and NHS GP practices, can work collaboratively to strengthen patient support – at no cost whatsoever,” founder and CEO Lee Dentith told BusinessCloud.

“We are offering an evolution of a traditional way to see a GP for all NHS patients by using NHS funds already in the system.

“Our technology assists patients because it gives GPs the opportunity to continue to see their patients – rather than losing them to other practices offering online consultation services.”

The technology offered to GP practices will include an option for patients to select Now Healthcare Group’s prescription delivery service but will also allow them to choose another pharmacy for dispensing their medication if preferred.

This means the arrangement will not put GPs at risk of breaching ‘prescription direction’ regulations, which prevent them from sending their patients to specific pharmacies for their medicines.

“We will also offer practices the chance to use our own GPs, free of charge, to carry out additional video consultations – such as for evening appointments – with a view to driving more people to use our app,” explained Dentith.

“We will look to work with practices to utilise their GPs for a couple of hours a week and do multiple (virtual consultations) or they can use our GPs (depending on how many patients from their practice we fulfil their medication needs).

“Best of all, it is completely free of charge.”

Dentith said the names of the practices involved in the testing would be announced shortly. He said the company would be interested to roll the technology out to further GP practices in the future. 

Last year, the Now Healthcare Group became the UK’s first digital health provider to be assured by the Care Quality Commission to meet all requirements within the new enhanced digital guidelines, with no areas for improvement.