Getting an appointment with the doctor can be a huge pain. You have to ring up and stay on hold for half an hour, only to find there are no appointments available for the next week and a half. And that's not including the effort it takes to get to the surgery, and all the waiting involved reading the same public health posters over and over. Plus the appointments are always in the middle of the day, which means you need to take time off work.
Well the NHS is actually trying out a new system that should make it more convenient. Basically it's trialling a 24 hour service that lets people talk to a GP via their smartphone - through the wondrous magical tech that is video calling.
The pilot scheme is set to take place in central London, covering 3.5 million people, before rolling out to other areas of the country. The idea is that you can use a specialised app to check your symptoms, and consult with a GP roughly two hours after making an appointment. It's a joint venture between London doctors and healthcare provider Babylon who've been doing this sort of thing for years - albeit in the private sector.
The downside here is that patients who sign up will leave the practice they're currently registered to, and will have their records sent to one of five surgeries in Central London. The Royal College of GPs has also warned that the service might not be helpful to people with complex medical needs - particularly with regard to older patients who might prefer the security of a GP who is familiar with who they are and what they need.
But this is probably a good idea, at least for the patients. Being able to see someone about your ailment quickly, and without having to leave whichever building you're in, sounds like a great idea - particularly since it's an NHS service that doesn't end up with you getting a bill at the end. There are the obvious issues of NHS services being taken over by a private company, though that's certainly not an issue limited to this particular development.
Still. Video calling a doctor on the NHS. What a time to be alive. [BBC News]