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GPs go forth

Babylon patients waiting weeks for travel vaccines due to rising service demands

Patients registered with Babylon GP at Hand are experiencing long waits for travel vaccines, as the service is struggling to meet rising demand.

The issues came to light on social media, when a patient complained about having to wait weeks to see the only travel nurse available to get vaccinated. 

Babylon said it is currently ‘reviewing’ the travel vaccine service capacity and may signpost patients to an ‘alternative travel clinic’.

GP leaders said while many practices 'struggle with travel clinics', its is interesting to see that the digital-first model is coming under strain, and suggested it could be down to the lack of face-to-face appointments. 

Jordan Priestley from North London told Pulse the issue with getting vaccinated happened to his friend, while he was present.

In a post to Babylon earlier this week, he wrote: ‘[I] find it appalling that you have only one travel nurse covering all 10,000+ of your patients in London. 3.5 to 4 weeks for an appointment - and then a further three week wait for vaccines is absolutely absurd. So we now have to contact 15 weeks before travel?’

Babylon GP at Hand, which now has 40,000 patients, has issued a statement on the issue to patients, on its website.

It said: ‘Please be aware we are currently reviewing the capacity for this service, and you may be signposted to an alternative travel clinic. The advice and vaccination is provided by a specialist trained nurse.

‘To book a telephone consultation regarding your upcoming travel plans, please contact our support team. You will need to book your appointment at least eight weeks before you plan to travel.

'Following a phone consultation with one of our nurses, if appropriate, you will then be booked in for vaccinations at our Munster Road clinic.’

Tower Hamlets GP and LMC chair Dr Jackie Applebee said: 'I think we all struggle with travel clinics, our practice nurse has just been saying how long the appointments have to be because there is so much to go over, so there does need to be quite a lot of capacity to provide them.

'But, the demographic that Babylon GP at Hand attracts will be people who are more likely to need/want travel clinic services.'

'It is interesting that their model seems to be coming under some strain, I wonder if this partly due to their limited capacity for face to face appointments,' she added.

A Babylon spokesperson told Pulse it is currently expanding the service to meet the rising demand.

They said: 'Like many other NHS GP practices, Babylon GP at hand provides travel health clinic services. The popularity of this service with more than 40,000 London-based GP at hand patients has prompted us to extend it.

'Babylon GP at hand gives the best accessibility of any NHS GP practice as appointments are available 24 hours a day, 365 days per year and slots are usually available in minutes.'

Last month, Pulse revealed that the CCG hosting Babylon GP at Hand might not be able to 'pay its bills', due to finanicial pressures caused by tens of thousands of patients signing up to the digital-first NHS GP service.

Readers' comments (9)

  • The start of the cracks in the shiny new model.What will happen next after the honeymoon period ends.Cant wait for the emperors new clothes moment.

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  • I would have thought that a service targeting the young & mobile would have considered the likely demand for travel clinic services.
    It looks as though GPatHand patients may be 'forced' to re-register with their previous practices - or change their holiday plans/preparations!
    PS the practice profile most closely resembles that of University practices: how do they manage?

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  • "alternative"="some underfunded GP practice that sees ill people rather than well people"

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  • Surely they must be aware of this as one of their 'risks' of the current model. i would imagine cervical screening is also high on the list. it is hard enough to get cervical smear numbers up, but when you have to travel across the entire length of London and there are no opportunistic appointments.

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  • I think the model is ridiculous but let's be honest - how many surgeries provide travel as more than just an afterthought? It should be removed from the NHS provision completely anyway.

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  • I can’t imagine university students have exotic holidays but working people without kids will.

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  • It might become a little problematic if you’re signposted to your GP appointment BUT it’s in Mumbai and you have to get travel vacations to attend???

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  • So online cannot solve the problem. Big surprise.

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  • AlanAlmond

    So if they want something 'real', ie not 'virtual', and they want it immediately, they can't. The glaring flaw in this model is that if it is rolled out nationally it will encounter exactly the same constraints as any other model - a lack of capacity in human staff. Unless they out source the human element to other countries - which given recent 'clarification' from the GMC - if probably exactly what is planned. ie online consults with Drs trained and registered in estonia and romania - no offence to the good Drs over there but an obvious regulatory and governance pandora's box

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