Doctaly claims to be the UK’s first online GP marketplace that enables patients to book a convenient face-to-face consultation with an NHS GP on a private, fee-paying basis. The company describes itself as ‘Uber-like’, after the taxi booking service; patients can search for doctors by location or name via an app, book an appointment and pay securely online for the service.
Doctaly’s model supposedly aims to alleviate the waiting time issues surrounding general practice and the decreasing number of GPs. Doctors registered with Doctaly treat their patients at their existing practice, working around their existing NHS commitments. However, they do not accept appointments for patients with psychiatric problems or chronic diseases.
Doctaly has already been introduced in Manchester, the West Midlands, Kent, Surrey and Scotland, with the company targeting every major city in the UK by the end of 2018. The company notes that they plan to expand to 10,000 NHS GP practices nationally.
Doctaly is the trading name of BDM Medical Ltd. The company was incorporated on 11 November 2014, founded by entrepreneur Ben Teichman and GP Dr Dinesh Silva.
According to their profile on Endole Suite, as of the end of 2017 the company had £7.03k cash in the bank and according to Companies House they have net assets of £130.39k.
Following a successful pilot launch in 2016, the company launched a Crowdcube funding campaign aiming to raise £500,000. As of June 2018, they had reached over £807,000.
The business has also been funded to date by director’s loans from the Founder and SEIS/EIS investment* from external investors.
* SEIS/EIS are schemes that to encourage seed investment into early-stage, high risk, small companies by offering tax breaks on new shares in those companies.
Doctaly has received its over £800k funding on Crowdcube from 1,134 investors at an equity of 11.86% and a pre-money valuation of £6,000,000. According to Crunchbase these investments account for all its funding.
The company said investors both large and small can access an early-stage investment opportunity, with a minimum investment of £10 “in one of the fastest growing tech markets globally”.
As of April 2018, Doctaly has signed deals with 36 UK GP practices, 35 in England and 1 in Scotland, pairing NHS GP practices with fee-paying patients. This follows a successful pilot programme of the service in London in 2016.
Campaigners have criticised Doctaly for allowing those who can afford to to queue-jump. There are also worries that it is easing the way for privatisation of the NHS.
Norman Lamb the former Liberal Democrat health minister, disagrees with the concept saying, patients should be able to access their usual local GP when they need to. He argues that it will create even more inequality within an already unequal society.
Dr Jackie Applebee, chairwoman of Tower Hamlets local medical committee and Doctors in Unite representative on the British Medical Association’s GPs committee said that she found Doctaly “very worrying” and it was a slippery slope towards further privatisation of the NHS.
A spokesperson for KONHSP said it was and example of “creeping privatisation compelling people who can dip into their own pockets to pay instead of waiting which in the face of a service on the verge of collapse is undermining”.
There is a general concern with these new digital services and their use of NHS GPs; although the doctors will be paid extra, their time and energy is being taken directly from the NHS with nothing given back. In addition, GPs already work inhumanely long hours and inviting them to work through their lunch-breaks or after hours will make this worse, meaning that all patients could receive sub-par treatment if doctors work longer days. This is just a quick digital fix for the rich that overlooks the bigger picture.