Harley Street GP Dr Tony Banerjee relates a heart-moving story about the setting up of his new private practice.
We are very excited about my new venture, HarleyDoc. We’ve had lots of great feedback and interest in what we’ve achieved so far.
I’m originally from Yorkshire, studying medicine in Leicester and have been based in London for over a decade now.
I’ve been in medicine for 25 years and a GP for 17 years. During this time, I’ve worked in every level of general practice in locum, salaried and partnership roles, both for the NHS and in private practice, as well as holding managerial roles throughout, such as chairman of a regional NHS Clinical Commissioning Group.
Dr Tony Banerjee
This gave me a solid understanding of how general practice works from the top down, as well as its strengths and inefficiencies.
I was diagnosed with advanced bowel cancer aged 23 while working as a junior doctor, so I have also experienced healthcare at its most acute and invasive as a patient as well as a doctor.
This has given me a really good insight into the patient experience and journey, and I believe that, as a clinician, there is little more powerful than being able to sit with a patient at their most vulnerable and be able to share that you have also been sat where they are, experiencing what they’re going through.
Working in central London near Westminster, I started to build a private list of patients including MPs, dignitaries, sportspersons and business people.
Many of them use London as a base but have multiple residences. They often spend times in the Mediterranean or the Middle East, and are unable to access the standard of healthcare they require.
I realised that the landscape of healthcare and our patient offering needed to adapt accordingly.
I started the building blocks of HarleyDoc pre-Covid, but, with lockdown, opportunities for advancing it were restricted. And besides that, it was all hands on deck at the NHS practices.
During the pandemic, I worked on the front line throughout in general practice and urgent care, and am proud to have worked with my primary care colleagues to help patients at this critical time.
I felt there was a real opportunity to re-invent NHS primary care at this stage, and that we reverted to type as lockdown was lifted. In an already-stretched system, I was unable to spend the time that my patients required and that their problems warranted.
Patients were complaining that there was a four-week waiting list to see me routinely and this was a system that was clearly not serving its clientele adequately.
My father is a retired GP and during his career, and certainly for the first few years of mine in general practice, patients had excellent access to their GP and they had the familiarity of seeing the same doctor who knew their history every time they accessed them.
This, in my opinion, has been lost in the primary care of recent years, with patients lucky to see the same doctor twice, which means often starting from scratch every time they attended the clinic.
This is where HarleyDoc is looking to disrupt the system. We want our private clients to be able to access the same doctor every time that they need us, who already knows their history before they’ve contacted us.
We offer phone consultations, video consultations, face-to-face consultations and home visits. Our pledge is that the client will be contacted within three hours of their query reaching us, following an immediate acknowledgement.
We want this same level of individualised bespoke healthcare to follow our clients wherever they travel in the world and we source local pharmacies and specialists as required like a concierge medical service – the first of its kind in the world, to our knowledge.
I recognised that we needed to have a presence in the Mediterranean and the Middle East, and so set up businesses in Dubai and Monaco with consultation rooms available when we require them for our clients who live there or find themselves there for business or leisure.
We are looking to expand towards Asia, as there is a large demand from our clients for our services to cater for them in that region. We are taking our time to grow organically rather than rushing the process and losing the quality of the service.
Now we have got so many clinicians from multiple countries interested in working with us – it is great to see other colleagues believing in and sharing our vision.
We have NHS and fully private hospital consultants in several specialties working with us already and I like to think of us as a ‘hub-and-spoke’ service with the hub being the patient’s named doctor, and the spokes being the specialists who we can call upon readily when necessary to offer their expertise.
Currently, we are also working on an education and training arm to the business, catering for developing clinical skills both locally in the UK but also remotely to developing nations looking to modernise their healthcare systems.
We are rapidly progressing as a company and look forward to modernising healthcare for our clients. We welcome clients joining HarleyDoc on a membership or ad hoc basis, and are busily building our database of generalists and specialists whose care our clients can access – almost becoming like a marketplace for health services.