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GPs criticise VHI for 'online doctor' offer


Dr Stephen Murphy

Dr Stephen Murphy

Dr Stephen Murphy

GPs have criticised VHI for teaming up with a service offering online prescriptions without a face-to-face doctor consultation.

Dr Stephen Murphy, a GP in Cabinteely in Dublin, said the biggest health insurer was offering its members a free consultation worth €25 to Lloyds Online Doctor which provides a limited range of medicines after patients fill in an online questionnaire.

He told the annual meeting of the National Association of General Practitioners in Limerick that best practice should involve a face-to-face consultation with a patient.

"I have been a doctor for 30 years and have had seven women suffering clots after taking the contraceptive pill and two women who have had strokes.

"Those are very well-known potential rare side-effects. I would hasten to add the pill is generally very safe."

The service is also offering erectile dysfunction treatments for male impotence and the condition is a well-known pointer for cardiovascular disease, he added.

"You are presuming people are honest and truthful in questionnaires but there is no guarantee."

A spokeswoman for VHI said the service was checked out before it made the offer as an added benefit to its customers.

It is not getting any direct financial benefit from the arrangement.

A spokesman for Lloyds Online Doctor said it has 30,000 customers in Ireland and stood over the safety of the service. All patient details submitted online are checked by working experienced doctors in the UK and Australia from busy practices.

"It is not a replacement for a face-to-face consultation. The prescriptions are for a limited range of medicines," he added. If the doctors have any concerns they will advise the customer to see their own GP.

The service has around one million customers overall.

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The benefit for customers is that they are spared the fee of around €60 to see a GP.

The medicines include contraceptives, asthma treatments and stop smoking aids. It also offers sexually-transmitted diseases tests.

The service has been reviewed and passed by the regulatory body the Medical Council

Each prescription is hand signed by a doctor and takes around five days to arrive in Ireland.

A similar service has also been started by a number of Irish GPs.

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