Frequently Asked Questions

How does it work?

1. WhatsApp call

At your appointment time the doctor will start a WhatsApp video call with you.

2. Medical consultation

The doctor will speak with you about your health problem and agree a management plan with you.

3. Prescription written

If the doctor writes a prescription it will be sent electronically to our medicines team.

4. Random allocation

Our medicines team will randomly dispense either the medication on the prescription - or a placebo.

5. Receive your medication

Your medication will arrive by post in an unbranded dossette box -whether it is a placebo or not.

About The Placebo Clinic

The Placebo Clinic is a new kind of healthcare service. We are a lot like your GP surgery, except that all of our consultations take place via WhatsApp and the medication you receive may or may not be a placebo.

We are a small group of GPs based in south Manchester, UK. We have a passion for providing safe, effective evidence-based treatment to patients suffering with long-term conditions like migraine, IBS, anxiety, chronic pain and insomnia.

All of our doctors are UK trained and GMC registered.

About The Placebo Effect

The placebo effect is generally defined as the phenomenon in which some patients’ health improves after taking what they believe is an effective drug but which is in fact a placebo, or non-therapeutic substance.

The changes that are seen when a patient improves with a placebo are real. We know that these changes have nothing to do with the ingredients of the medication but we are still not sure how the effect works. Ongoing research, most notably at Harvard Medical School, is attempting to uncover the underlying cause of the effect.

There are some long-term health conditions that we believe are particularly suited to our service These include:

  • anxiety;
  • back pain;
  • depression;
  • fibromyalgia;
  • insomnia;
  • irritable bowel syndrome (IBS);
  • long-term pain;
  • migraine.

Clearly, however, there are some conditions in which it would be ethically wrong to give a placebo because the established treatments are proven to be extremely effective. Examples of such conditions would include cancer, heart attacks and strokes.

There are companies which sell “honest” placebo treatment and of course you are welcome to try them.

However, research lead by the Program in Placebo Studies & Therapeutic Encounter (PiPS) at Harvard Medical School has shown that the doctor-patient relationship is key to the placebo effect so we believe that our service is more effective for two reasons:

  1. We are able to offer a consultation with a fully trained and qualified medical doctor.
  2. The medication you receive may or may not be a placebo. 

To find out more about the placebo effect please follow the links at the bottom of this page. Alternatively, type “the placebo effect” into a search engine.

If your symptoms improve because of placebo treatment then it may be possible take less medication. However, we will always suggest that you discuss any changes to prescribed medication with the doctor who prescribed it.

Booking

Our appointments change from week to week depending on the availability of our doctors. If you cannot find a convenient appointment time on the booking calendar contact us to enquire about our availability at your desired time. 

We currently offer a choice of 10 or 20 minute WhatsApp video consultations. 

To book an appointment go to our booking page, select your appointment type, date and time and fill in the form with your details.

You can chose to pay securely with most major credit and debit cards via PayPal at the time of booking.

Alternatively, you may opt to pay within seven days of your consultation, in which case you will receive an electronic invoice via email.

Please note that if you chose to pay later, any medication prescribed will not be dispatched until payment is received.

To cancel an appointment contact us.

We are able to offer consultations to anyone around the world but due to medicines regulations we are only able to prescribe medications if you live in the UK.

Also, please note that we are currently only able to consult in English and we only work during UK day-time hours.

Connecting

We use WhatsApp as our video consultation platform.

You will need a smartphone with a working WhatsApp account.

We have chosen to use WhatsApp because of the quality of the video and audio that it can offer and it’s market leading security features.

If you are unable to use WhatsApp please contact us to discuss possible alternatives.

If you do not have access to a compatible device please contact us to discuss possible alternatives.

If you are unable to use a smartphone or other compatible device, we may be able to offer a voice call. Please contact us to discuss your requirements.

We are able to offer voice calls for those who need them, however, we believe that video calls are superior in building the doctor-patient relationship which seems to be key to the placebo effect. Please contact us to discuss your requirements.

We may be able to offer a home visit within a small radius of our base in south Manchester but please be aware that this service is limited and the price will vary considerably dependent on distance and time of day. Please contact us to discuss your requirements.

Before the consultation

Prepare as you would for any other consultation with a doctor. Think about what you want to say and what questions you wish to ask. It is useful to have a list of your current health conditions and medications. If you have any documentation like prescriptions, hospital letters, test results or medical notes it is helpful if you can have them to hand.

Additionally:

  • Make sure that you have access to a quiet, well-lit and private place where you will be comfortable for the duration of the consultation.
  • Check that your device is charged and you have a good internet signal. You may wish to use headphones. Turn up the volume on your device.
  • If you encounter any problems contact us as soon as possible.

The doctor will call at your booked appointment time.

Please be aware that, due to the nature of our work, there may be times when the doctor gets delayed so we ask that you kindly wait for up to ten minutes after the appointment start time before getting in touch to let us know.

If the doctor expects to be delayed by longer than ten minutes we will let you know as soon as possible, either by phone or WhatsApp message.

About The Consultation

The doctor will ask you standard medical questions in order to understand your health needs. The doctor may feel it is helpful to know specific personal details relating to your health condition. You do not need to disclose any information that you are not comfortable to share but be aware that this may affect the quality of the advice that the doctor is able to offer.

At the start of the consultation the doctor will discuss the options with you:

  1. Traditional placebo treatment: the doctor will write a prescription and the medicines team will allocate you to receive it – or a placebo.
  2. Open placebo treatment: the doctor will prescribe a placebo and explicitly tell you that this is the case.

You can expect the same level of confidentiality from us as you would get from any doctor.

However, if the doctor suspects that you or someone else is in immediate danger of significant harm based on their findings during the consultation they may be legally required to break confidentiality in order to prevent it. This rule applies to all doctors, not just those at The Placebo Clinic.

You should tell your GP that you have used our service but we will not routinely write to them. However, we are happy to do so at your request.

Please see our price list for a full list of the services we offer.

We cannot directly arrange blood tests. We are able to advise on the need for blood tests and would be happy to provide you the details of private providers who offer a testing service.

We cannot directly arrange x-rays or scans but our doctors can advise you if you might need one. We are able to provide details of private providers who may be able to arrange these kinds of investigations.

All of your personal and medical data is held in accordance with data protection regulations. 

Medicines

A one month supply of medication will be subject to our standard prescription charge, whether you receive the prescribed medication or a placebo.

All of our prescriptions are widely used in general practice and we are experienced in using them. If you experience any side-effects please contact us.

Our medicines team will process and dispatch your medication as soon as they receive the electronic prescription from the doctor.

However, if you choose to pay later when booking your appointment, the medication will not be dispatched until payment is received.

All medicines are sent by free delivery to mainland UK addresses.

Your medication will arrive in an unbranded dossette box. Our name and logo do not appear on the exterior of the package for your privacy.

The doctor will explain how to use the medication during your consultation.

Support

If you encounter any problems when booking an appointment please contact us.

Due to the nature of the work, the doctor may be delayed in calling you. We ask that you kindly wait for ten minutes after your appointment time before contacting us.

If your treatment has not arrived after seven working days please contact us.

If your medication has arrived damaged or defective in any way please contact us as soon as possible.

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