Over recent months, with Covid-19 stretching NHS resources and isolation and social distancing reducing mobility, obtaining a GP appointment within a reasonable timescale has been a challenge. Even now, with lockdown easing, many clients will be reluctant to put themselves in an environment so close to others in poor health, even if they feel they really need medical advice. With Cirencester the latest to add GP services to their proposition, in this article we look at how offerings across the market differ.

Virtual GP services provide an excellent and safe alternative for clients, and offer far quicker access to a GP from the comfort of their own home. But which insurers offer such services and how do their offerings differ?

Currently, only a small number of providers offer access to GPs via their policies. The providers that do are AIG, British Friendly, Cirencester Friendly, Guardian, LV=, The Exeter and Vitality. All of these providers offer GP services to customers irrespective of the product purchased

In an ideal world, clients will remain healthy and not need to access a GP, however if a client is suffering from a chronic ailment that might require them to contact a GP several times it is useful to understand the limits insurers Place on their GP services.  AIG, Guardian and Vitality allow clients unlimited access whereas others restrict their services; British Friendly limit usage to 6 appointments per annum, LV= have a limit of 5 appointments per year, The Exeter’s limit is 4 times per annum and Cirencester Friendly allow 2 appointments.

Use of GP services can extend beyond the life assured, and some providers also allow members of the immediate family to access the benefit. The chart below shows who each provider makes their GP services available to:

All providers except Cirencester Friendly and Vitality allow the life assured’s children to use their GP services, but those that do have different rules on the maximum ages at which they can access the benefit. British Friendly and The Exeter provide their service to children up to the age of 23, AIG have a maximum age of 21 and LV= allow access for children up to 16. Guardian does not set a limit on the age at which children of the life assured can access the benefit.

Providers can offer access to GPs through multiple communication channels. In the current environment it may not be possible or indeed desirable to for a client to attend a face to face consultation, so enabling clients to get the advice they need via a video or telephone call is a welcome alternative. The chart below details how providers offer their GP services:

Should medication be required after the consolation, all of the providers in the table above, except Vitality, include this facility, enabling a private prescription to be delivered in a number of ways; posted to any UK address, sent by email or issued directly to the pharmacy. The methods vary by providers but in all cases the service is free, but the client still needs to pay for the cost of the medicine.

Each insurers’ virtual GP service has its own merits but all set out to provide easy access to confidential medical advice in a swift and convenient way. AIG, British Friendly, Guardian and The Exeter should be commended for allowing the life assured’s spouse and children access the service. Guardian, and The Exeter, alongside LV=, also have the widest range of methods via which services can be access.

There is no doubt these are valuable services that will benefit many customers, and particularly in today’s environment. However currently Aegon, Aviva, Canada Life, L&G, Royal London, Scottish Widows and Zurich do not offer GP services and it would be a helpful and welcome addition to their propositions to help customers who need easy and swift access to medical advice, and not just in a Covid-19 world.