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Posted on 24th March 2017

Virtual GPs could be offering instant advice soon

NHS doctors and researchers at Essex University are working on an app that can deliver instant medical advice, a “virtual GP”.

Intended to help people with minor tummy complaints, colds and flu, it will be piloted in East Anglia.

The service is supposed to help the NHS cut costs, as appointments for minor aliments cost the NHS up to £2 billion a year. 

Simon Rudland, of Stowhealth in Stowmarket, a GP practice involved in the project, said: “Gastric complaints and the cold and flu season take up a huge amount of our time. We want patients who can treat themselves at home to have the best, validated advice, and for people who really need our help to receive more of our time.”

The app won’t be ready until next year, but it will talk through the symptoms with a patient to confirm they are consistent with something like flu, or a stomach bug. The app will have a number of red flag symptoms it can identify and tell the patient to make an aapointmetn with a doctor at that moment

“It won’t make diagnoses but can provide reassurance by chatting through your symptoms and confirming that they’re consistent with flu, for example,” said Peter Brady, chief executive of Orbital Media, the company developing the app. “If there’s any red flag symptom, you will be told to seek in-person help immediately.”

Some doctors and patients’ groups, however, fear that patients may lose out as a result of less human contact.