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200 GPs working for Babylon as 40,000 NHS patients apply

Babylon, the company behind the GP at Hand online app, now has 200 GPs on its roster, it has been revealed.

This includes GPs working across its private and NHS services, remotely or from its London headquarters.

Pulse has learned that Babylon offers a full-time salary of around £90,000 to work from home, or £108,000 if office based.

But GP leaders warned the company's rapid expansion risked spreading the rest of the NHS GP workforce 'more thinly'.

The GP at Hand app, which launched across London in November, pledges an online appointment 'within minutes' and a same or next-day face-to-face appointment at five London bases if required.

GP at Hand, which operates using a host GMS practice and the out-of-area registration scheme, has signed up over 20,000 patients to date. But the company told Pulse it is processing applications that would take it to 40,000 users.

Meanwhile, the private Babylon service currently has 575,000 members across the UK.

The news of the company's expansion comes as GP leaders are still attempting to put a stop to its business model and as its London host CCG has revealed it is threatening its financial balance.

Tower Hamlets LMC chair Dr Jackie Applebee, who said practices in her area have so far lost around 1,500 patients to GP at Hand, expressed concern about the wider implications of swathes of GPs going to work for Babylon.

She said: 'It's just going to spread the NHS workforce, for the rest of us, more and more thinly. I suppose it goes back to the same old argument, that the rest of us are going to be left looking after the more complex patients.

'I can see why it is attractive to go and work for them, because they are offering flexible working hours, I imagine a good salary, and it's an easy workload if it's young single-issue patients. But it's the long-term impact of dividing the GP workforce into those who look after complex patients and those who look after the more simple patients. It de-skills us as a profession.'

BMA GP committee chair Dr Richard Vautrey told Pulse that they are 'continuing to review' the development of Babylon's expansion 'very closely', 'including the legal basis under which the practice is operating'.

Although Dr Vautrey said Babylon can legally use the out-of-area registration scheme in the way that it does, the BMA is petitioning NHS England to amend that scheme.

The BMA's concerns include patient continuity of care, as well as the future of the registered patient list system.

Dr Vautrey said: 'The fact that they’ve got so many GPs involved would cause the question how much continuity of care they are able to offer individual patients and what the impact of that is in the long term.

'We have repeated our concerns about the undermining of the registered list system by this particular service model, with its emphasis on out-of-area registration.'

Dr Vautrey added that while 'individual doctors make their own decisions about how they want to work' they 'need to ensure they are working in an environment where it is safe'.

RCGP advice to GPs about working for online providers included closely considering their safety ratings.

What Babylon says

A Babylon spokesperson told Pulse: 'We believe it is high time that everyone respected people’s right to choose the NHS GP service that works best for them. GP at Hand is one of the most successful and fastest-growing NHS services in the country. Over 40,000 people living and/or working in central London have applied to join GP at hand, which was launched less than six months ago, with over 90% of users who have rated our service giving us either a 4- or 5-star satisfaction rating for our digital appointments (which are available 24/7 – most often within two hours of requesting an appointment).

'Additionally, Babylon can support GPs to be better able to provide high-quality care effectively and efficiently, in a way that is simply not possible for GPs working in a traditional general practice. That's just one reason why 95% of GPs working for Babylon agree that they can "usually manage the amount of my work well" whereas the BMA found that 84% of GPs across the NHS were reporting that workload pressures are either "unmanageable" or "excessive" (Source: “Patient safety under threat from Pressures in General Practice”, BMA 2016).'


Readers' comments (34)

  • I said it before - where are the makers of Hand Knitted Socks now?

    Prescribing privilege will be the next to go.

    And when it happens it will happen very quickly. "GPs-r us" must face the writing on the wall

    Upskill and diversify..

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  • David Banner

    The issue is NOT a bunch of Luddite self-interested GPs facing obsolescence (the recruitment crisis has already sealed that deal), but that Babylon are allowed to discriminate on which patients they will take, whilst traditional GPs cannot. This is totally unacceptable and presumably illegal. Why is this being allowed to happen??? BMA, where are you???

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  • AlanAlmond

    I don’t believe this is safe. Show me the evidence that someone has proven this model of care to be an appropriate, safe and effective way of delivering primary care. How can it be right that a wholesale reorganisation of primary care has been introduced without proper analysis? How can it be that we have a massive oversupply of medical regulatory bodies and none of them has bothered to analyse and state what they think of this model? It’s like we are passive recipients of something that is just happening. Work for them if you like but you are practicing crap medicine and I will shed no tears when I read about the inevitable wave of medical negligence claims coming your way. You see the Drs working for these people hold all the risk. Ponder on that .. it’s the individual Drs working for these people who will shoulder all the blame when mistakes happen. If you think otherwise you are a total fool. Take their money but you are personally responsible for the consequences one else. Mugs. But there are plenty of them...200 at least.

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  • Safety v convenience. Consumers are not so stupid at assessing safety as you might like to think. Foe extreme convenience they may well be prepared to sacrifice a little in the safety margin and may soon get pretty good at assessing where the safety margins lie.

    As the product changes so consumers will earn to use it in different ways and appropriately.

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  • Presumably the vast majority of the work those 200 GPs are currently doing is private work, because 20,000 patients between 200 GPs is only 100 patients each

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  • there must be a fair margin of gp down/slack time in order to have drs immediately available on demand or within the times advertised-probably another attraction of the job description

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  • I can see why this job could be attractive. Can stay at home - err on the side of caution and give antibiotics for example - deal with young patients with usually minor problems - no visits - less hassle

    It’s the practices that are loosing patients where the problems is - one practice ha lost 1500 patients - if that happened to us we would have to close down it cut doctor time

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  • AlanAlmond

    policenthieves | GP Partner/Principal18 Apr 2018 1:22pm
    The safety issue is nothing to do with consumer assessment. This is about the Doctor. It isn’t safe to practice as a Dr...and on what basis do you asume ‘consumers aren’t so stupid at assessing safety as you might like to think’ ...where do you get this from? Quite a large number of the average patient population are exactly that - pretty clueless. That’s exactly why they need to see a Dr , they don’t know what to do and they need your advice. If you are the one dispensing that advice, you are liable for any errors that occur and you can’t even lay a hand on the patent, the stupid one is in this scenario is actually the Dr.

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  • AlanAlmond

    I think what’s being lost in the whole discussion about this issue, amongst the convenience, and the distruptive tech, and the working from home and the money that people will make , is the stark fact the the entirety of the risk associated with the new model of care lies solely with the Dr. Yes people like the convenience, of cause they do. The cost is a risky consultation model, the punters don’t care because you are the one to blame if it goes tits up. Not them.

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