One of the first pharmacies to open its own virtual GP surgery plans to roll the service out to all of its branches before the end of the year.
Fitzwilliam Pharmacy in Cambridge, one of the oldest pharmacies in the UK, started piloting the ‘MedicSpot’ system in May 2017, and, according to Gurvinder Singh Sabharwal, superintendent pharmacist and managing director of the pharmacy, the response from patients has been “overwhelmingly positive”.
“There has been a lot of interest and uptake of the new service at our pharmacy,” he said.
“The virtual GP terminal allows our pharmacy to provide even more added value to our local community as well as provide a one-stop solution for our patients’ health and wellbeing needs. With all the recent NHS pharmacy cuts, we have to ensure that we continue to innovate and provide better and more efficient services than ever before from our community pharmacies,” he added.
The technology is accessed via a laptop situated within the pharmacy and patients may contact the pharmacy by phone or walk in for a virtual GP consultation.
To use the MedicSpot, patients input their personal details, medical history and a brief description of their illness which are passed on to a GP who they then speak to via a Skype-like video link. Guided by the GP, the patient can examine themselves at the clinical station using equipment such as a stethoscope, MediCam — to look in the throat and ears — pulse oximeter, thermometer and blood pressure monitor to help the GP make a diagnosis. The on-site pharmacy staff are also on hand to help with anything that the patients need.
If a prescription is required, the remote doctor issues it to the pharmacy via email, and the pharmacy provides the patient with a private prescription immediately. A single consultation costs a flat fee of £30, cheaper than a private GP appointment, and lasts around 10–15 minutes.
Naveed Razzaque, pharmacy operation manager at the Fitzwilliam pharmacy, said that owing to the location of the pharmacy in Cambridge city centre, the system had been of particular use to the large numbers of international students and tourists who require medical attention for minor and acute symptoms.
He explained that in one case, an individual visiting from Denmark was able to obtain a prescription for antibiotics for a urinary tract infection after being unable to book an appointment with a GP in the area. Fitzwilliam Pharmacy is actively promoting the new service in many hotels and restaurants in the area to notify tourists who may not be able to see a GP directly.
Although the pharmacy has not yet conducted an audit of the service, it intends to conduct one in September 2017, to evaluate the success of the service and contribute to the pharmacy’s annual clinical audit contractual requirement.
“All comments and surveys taken to date have given us a strong indication that the service is very welcome locally, and a good addition to our pharmacy service offerings,” said Sabharwal.
The MedicSpot system was co-founded by two GPs and an investor, all of whom have worked in the NHS, and is now being rolled out in pharmacies across the country.
The service is registered with the Care Quality Commission (CQC). However, the provider is yet to be inspected since its registration in December 2016, according to a spokesperson from the CQC.