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Leading GP questions rigour of Pharmacy2U’s sickness certificates


Leading GP questions rigour of Pharmacy2U’s sickness certificates

By Neil Trainis

A service launched by Pharmacy2U that allows people to apply and pay for a sickness certificate to take time off work has been criticised by a leading GP who claimed it does not provide rigorous enough evidence that an individual is too unwell to work.

Dr Mark Porter told The Times on Friday that the online Pharmacy 's work sickness certificate service which costs users £39 “is too dependent on taking every customer's story at face value.”

The service asks users to upload a photo of their passport or workplace ID, complete a medical questionnaire and upload a short video on their mobile phone describing their symptoms.

Pharmacy2U said after the photo, questionnaire and video have been submitted as “medical evidence,” doctors registered with the General Medical Council review it on the same day and, after validating it, send the user a workplace medical sickness certificate by email or text.

Pharmacy2U, who have partnered with ZoomDoc which provides online medical letters, health tests and advice, to roll out the service, also said doctors will call the user if they have any questions about their symptoms and provide follow-up medical advice and support via email.

ZoomDoc said it does not provide certification for more than seven days’ sick leave and claimed its service has saved nearly 10,000 GP hours. However, Porter said it would be “much easier to pull the wool over the eyes of a Pharmacy2U clinician” than a user’s own GP.

“I am not sure how I would feel if I was an employer or an insurer given that the Pharmacy 2U system appears to be, at least to my eyes, only slightly more rigorous than a self-certification scheme,” he said.

“Yes, a clinician endorses the customer's request, to be signed off work, declared unfit to travel, etc, based on the facts presented and uploaded evidence, but there appears to be no reliable way of independently validating either.”

Porter added: “While the vast majority of People are honest, a small minority are not. Call me a cynic, but if I was one of the latter I would find it much easier to pull the wool over the eyes of a Pharmacy2U clinician than my own GP/specialist. As such, the scheme is likely to be a roaring success.”

The Times said one of its reporters who tested the service was able to get signed off work for four days after filming a video in which they claimed they had a headache and a cough.

Pharmacy2U is also offering same-day university, college and school sickness letters for the same price. Its CEO Kevin Heath said its medical letters service “will simplify the whole process for patients while also releasing an administrative burden for GPs and the NHS.”

Validation process 'mirrors standards in NHS primary care'

Pharmacy2U told Independent Community Pharmacist it chose to partner with ZoomDoc "because of their medical expertise and team of GMC-registered GPs." ZoomDoc's chief medical officer Dr Kenny Livingstone said its validation process "mirrors the standards upheld in NHS primary care ."  

"Just as NHS GPs handle remote consultations for minor illnesses, our doctors meticulously validate the information received," he told ICP . "The query arises as to how NHS GPs validate sickness information in remote scenarios, challenging the notion of credibility based on the remote nature of the interaction. 

    “In contrast, ZoomDoc Health, and by extension, Pharmacy2U's medical letter service, boasts a safer, stronger and more stringent validation process. Our rejection rate, standing at 10 per cent, underscores our commitment to thorough scrutiny."

    Dr Livingstone denied there was a risk Pharmacy2U’s service could encourage People who are not unwell to take time off work and help to increase the number of People claiming sick leave nationally.

    "We believe that ZoomDoc system, which requires video footage and evidence for short periods of time off work and the rigorous process has the potential to reduce instances of sick leave, fostering a more accountable approach to sickness reporting," he said.

    "The service adheres to a maximum sickness certification period of seven days, aligning with the self-certification timeframe available to all patients."

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