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NHS Hammersmith and Fulham CCG has lifted its clinical restrictions for which patients Babylon’s GP at Hand app should sign up.
The service has been criticised by GP leaders for ‘cherry-picking’ young, fit and healthy patients – as patients with a range of conditions were advised it may not be ‘clinically appropriate’ for them to use the service.
Since entering into a collaboration last year, digital GP provider Babylon and a GP practice in Fulham, west London, have registered over 30,000 patients from across the wider London area via the out-of-area registration scheme.
Papers published on Friday by the CCG’s primary care committee said: ‘Following discussion at the last clinical assurance meeting with the practice in September an amendment is being made to the information on their website for patients looking to register with them.’
Previously, patients with several conditions were not advised to register with the app, including for example frail elderly, people with complex mental health problems and pregnant women.
But the papers said: ‘The list of conditions where it may not be clinically appropriate for patients with them to register will be removed.’
They added that ‘patients will still be advised that sometimes it may not be clinically appropriate for patients to register with a practice that is not local to their home’. Our sister publication Pulse, where this article was first published, understands this means that GP at Hand will continue to assess, on a patient-by-patient basis whether its digital services are suitable for them.
The papers further revealed that the Fulham GP practice has now changed its name to Babylon GP at Hand, to avoid confusing patients when they download the Babylon app.
The practice, run by Dr Jefferies and Partner, had started out as the Lillie Road Surgery then changed its name to just GP at Hand.
Since the launch of the Babylon collaboration in November last year, the practice’s list size has gone from 4,700 to 36,555 and NHS England’s local team expects this to rise further due to a relaunched marketing initiative.
A report from the team to the primary care committee said: ‘The practice has recently commenced an updated marketing initiative comprising of both social media and physical adverts – and registration rates have increased over the last few weeks accordingly.
‘Our expectation is that this rise will continue for the duration of the initiative.’
The new adverts specify that patients will need to give up their existing GP and re-register with GP at Hand, after a previous advert was banned by the the Advertising Standards Authority for ‘misleading patients’.
NHS England’s report to the CCG further revealed some of the demographics of the patients that have signed up to GP at Hand. Three quarters (73%) are aged 20-34 and just 5% live in Hammersmith and Fulham.
And it went on to confirm that Babylon’s proposed expansion of GP at Hand to Birmingham will continue to be blocked until clinical safety concerns relating to patient screening can be resolved.
The report said: ‘The national team is continuing to work through the possible solutions and will refer back to the committee once progress is made. Meanwhile, the objection notice stays in place and no expansion beyond the London region can take place.’
The impact of Babylons’ GP at Hand service is also subject to an ongoing independent evaluation by Ipsos Mori, with the primary care committee papers saying that an ‘interim report’ would be brought to its December meeting.
A Babylon GP at Hand spokesperson said: ‘We are very pleased that there is no longer any ambiguity that Babylon GP at hand is a service for all who choose it.
‘Babylon GP at hand is available to everyone who lives or works within 40 minutes of one our clinics. It is a full NHS GP practice, with no restrictions on which groups of patients can register.
‘People are entitled to choose their NHS practice, and Babylon GP at hand is committed to providing the full information about our service so that people can make the decision that is right for them and their families.’
Commissioners had previously instructed Babylon’s GP at Hand service to advise patients with the following characteristics that they may be better off registering with a practice close to their home.
Source: GP at Hand
This story was first published on our sister publication Pulse.