Private referrals are on the rise as NHS attempts to cut costs

CEO & Founder of Now GP’s parent company Now Healthcare Group, Lee Dentith, discusses the latest healthcare news in his regular blog. Today’s piece concerns a notable rise in private referrals as doctors are encouraged to ask patients about insurance.

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Something that myself and my colleagues at Now Healthcare Group have spoken about profusely in recent months is the clear correlation between the NHS’ continued financial difficulties and a rise in referrals from GPs to the private sector. Yesterday, in a news article from Pulse, it was confirmed that some CCGs in England are actively encouraging patients to consider using their private health insurance in a bid to cut costs for the NHS, and that referrals are on the rise as a result.

NHS Mid Essex CCG has seen a 6% year-on-year increase in referrals to private healthcare services since practices were contacted and asked to discuss their private insurance options with patients. NHS Basildon and Brentwood CCG, meanwhile, has also introduced a new “Private healthcare; another patient choice” scheme in what is an openly-admitted bid to cut costs.

I found the Readers’ Comments section of this article particularly interesting, with an anonymous GP partner admitting that they are more likely to refer patients privately when they know insurers are picking up the bill:

“When I have a patient with a hernia, or varicose vein I’m not going to refer them on the NHS but as soon as they say they have insurance I’m no longer the gate-keeper.”

We now have tangible evidence that certain GPs and practices will refer patients privately to save money for the NHS, which of course, is bad news for private medical insurance companies who will see premiums rise.

I spoke to my colleague Dr. Andrew Thornber (who is our Clinical Director here at NHG) about the news, and he admitted that this kind of behaviour is commonplace across NHS practices. He said:

“Actively encouraging patients to use their private medical insurance and placing financial considerations above the clinical needs of patients is, in my opinion, setting a very dangerous precedent. Patients should be seen and assessed purely on clinical grounds and subsequent decisions, regarding investigation and treatment pathways, should be based on best medical practice and in accordance with local and national guidelines.”

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The aforementioned CCGs have attempted to justify these actions by emphasising that they are only posing such questions “simply to highlight the option for the patient to make a considered choice but by no way impeding on their ability to choose.” However, the figures speak for themselves, and this increase in often unnecessary referrals will undoubtedly not sit well with private medical insurance companies.

We’re currently working with select insurers to help eradicate this kind of unnecessary expense, and yesterday’s news shows exactly why more and more private medical insurance companies are turning to mHealth platforms such as our Dr Now / Now GP mobile app.

Although our doctors are all qualified NHS GPs in their own right, whilst they are working for Now Healthcare Group they are treated as independent – they are not pressured by the NHS or CCGs to cut costs or adhere to budgets and are able to treat the patient’s wellbeing and healthcare as their top priority. By utilising our mobile healthcare services, PMIs are able to provide patients with convenient, accessible care and also avoid paying out for often unnecessary referrals.


You can read more of my thoughts on LinkedIn (Mr Lee Dentith), and you can also follow me on Twitter.

 


Schools Advisory Service to Provide 100,000 with Instant GP Access

The leading school staff absence insurance provider will be using the Now GP app to reduce teacher absence and minimise disruption to children’s education in the UK.

Now Healthcare Group is delighted to announce a new partnership alongside Schools Advisory Service, the leading provider of staff absence insurance for schools and academies in the United Kingdom.

Schools Advisory Service will be introducing access to the Now GP mobile application to its 100,000 members, who work across 3,500 schools nationwide, from 1 April.

The partnership will enable teachers to have a convenient consultation via smartphone with a UK-based GP doctor at the touch of a button. They’ll also be able to receive their prescriptions and/or medicines as quickly as possible through Now GP’s integrated pharmacy system – helping them get back to work sooner or avoid taking time off.

The arrangement replaces Schools Advisory Service’s previous GP telephone service.

Recent figures show that 2.7 million teaching days are lost each year through sickness, with education professionals losing 10.2 days annually and an average of 4.5% of their working time. By partnering with Now Healthcare Group, Schools Advisory Service is taking steps to ensure that the education of our children is left uninterrupted by attempting to reduce the amount of time teachers lose to sickness.

Current regulations mean that when teachers are absent from work schools are unable to claim money to cover sickness for three days. By providing teachers with early access to a GP, this partnership will attempt to ensure that the majority of teachers will be able to stay in work thanks to early intervention when they fall ill – saving schools around the country money.

Director of Schools Advisory Service, Les Marshall, said:

“Our new service from Now Healthcare Group will be an essential element of trying to prevent and reduce staff absences in schools. This service is just what teachers have been asking us to provide for years and to finally be able to provide a service of the highest quality from the market leader demonstrates why Schools Advisory Service is the UK’s largest supplier of staff absence insurance.”

Founder & CEO of Now Healthcare Group, Lee Dentith, said:

“Now Healthcare Group is thrilled to be working with Schools Advisory Service through this exclusive partnership. We’re looking to significantly reduce the number of sickness days lost by teachers and education workers by giving them access to a GP immediately through our mobile app platform, Now GP. Our partnership will benefit schools, teachers and children alike as we look to minimise disruption to pupils’ education across the country.”


Now GP Partners with Medex Protect to Tackle Staff Sickness Through New Scheme

Now GP’s video consultation system is one of several benefits offered to businesses through Medex Protect’s new ‘Sick Pay Protect’ scheme.


Now GP, the medical diagnostic branch of Now Healthcare Group, is partnering with medical insurance company Medex Protect to provide businesses with a new type of insurance cover to help manage sickness absence and gain reimbursements of statutory sick pay (SSP) payments.

A company at the forefront of medical insurance development, Medex Protect has created Sick Pay Protect to grant businesses access to a unique policy designed to combine the benefits of effective absence management with greater financial freedom and assurance.

The Sick Pay Protect policy will refund SSP contributions to businesses for up to 28 weeks if employees are absent from work for a minimum of seven days. It includes effective risk management via embedded pre-commencement screening, online risk assessments and access to Now GP’s state-of-the-art online remote video consultation primary healthcare service to grant employees instant access to a GP.

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Jason Dunks, commercial director of Medex Protect, said:

“Access to private GP appointments on a same day basis will not only be a valued benefit to scheme members, it will reduce absence costs for the employer associated with the positive benefits derived from prompt access to primary care support at the outset of an illness.”

Now GP is the world’s first mobile app to provide those unwell with a remote consultation with a professionally-certified GP and the delivery of medicines directly to their home or office. Established with both technology and medical knowledge in mind, the platform brings a wealth of benefits to businesses and HR departments looking to provide their employees with a benefit-in-kind free health service to help take the hassle out of healthcare and reduce staff sickness.

Employee absence costs UK businesses collectively £29 billion each year, with Now GP acting as an effective solution for short-term staff sickness. Patients are able to speak to an MRCGP-certified GP at a time to suit them, with medicines delivered overnight or in as little as two hours in central London.

CEO and Founder of Now GP and its parent company Now Healthcare Group, Lee Dentith, said of the new partnership:

“Now GP is delighted to be working alongside Medex Protect to offer UK businesses an effective primary care solution as part of the company’s new innovative absence management product. Instant access to a GP is the key to tackling the issue of short-term sickness in the workplace and we look forward to working on this exciting project in the coming months.”


 

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