GPs are not to introduce online consultation services until there is ‘clear evidence’ that it is beneficial to patients, a conference has heard.

The emergency motion was passed at the Conference of England Local Medical Committee’s (LMC) in London on Friday morning.

A debate on online consultations follows the launch of GP at Hand across London.

The 24-hour smartphone app which allows patients to video chat with their GPs in a bid to slash waiting times, has been met with criticism.

One Digital Health reader said: “If you visit the site you find that, unlike any other NHS practice, they appear to be picking low-risk, non-complicated patients.”

General Practitioners Committee chair Dr Richard Vautrey hit out at NHS England support for the rollout of the GP at Hand service.

The GPC chair told the conference: ”Unlike some new services promoted this week that NHS England seems to support, we don’t cherry-pick young, fit and healthy patients.”

“We don’t refuse to treat people who are vulnerable, frail or housebound, those with learning disabilities or complex problems. We deliver a service that is open to all, no questions asked.”

The conference went on to raise concerns that there was no ‘good evidence’ to suggest online consultations would reduce workload and is ‘disadvantageous to those patients who do not have access to the internet’.

The motion called for the GPC to ‘make it clear to government and NHS England that GPs will not formally agree to begin online consulting until there is clear evidence that it is beneficial to the health of patients’.

After the motion was passed, the news gained traction on social media (see below).

Dr Marcus Baw told Digital Health News that he welcomed the profession “taking a mature and evidence-based stance on digital transformation.”

Baw said: “As GPs we have been at the forefront of digital health, and we welcome the many advantages it will bring, but it is unacceptable for these advantages to come at the expense of widening inequality or equity of access to healthcare, loss of patient privacy and confidentiality, or a lowering of standards of clinical care.

“As ever, the care of the patient is our first concern.”

This month, NHS England also launched £45 million worth of funding to help GP surgeries implement online consultation programmes.

head of general practice development at NHS England, Dr Robert Varnam, said the money will be used to implement an online consultation programme for three years across a number of GP practices.

Calling online consultations ‘exciting’,  Varnham added: “The future of primary care cannot look like it is now and patient facing technology is a key part of helping the pressure in primary care.”