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Hancock defends GP at Hand endorsement by arguing GP practices are all 'private'

Health secretary Matt Hancock has responded to GP criticism of his endorsement of Babylon's GP at Hand app, saying it does not differ to other GP practices who are also 'private'.

The RCGP wrote to Mr Hancock to complain after he spoke out to back a national rollout of the app last month.

GP leaders warned that the service, which operates under the out-of-area registration scheme, does not supply home visits, and is not recommended for certain patient groups, will create a 'two-tier' health service.

But, addressing the RCGP's concerns at a Conservative Party conference fringe event earlier this week, Mr Hancock said: '

Mr Hancock said: ‘I heard your concerns… last week. One coda is that when Babylon is called a private company – I would remind everybody that almost all GP practices are private companies – so this isn’t a public-private thing at all.

‘This is about how do you make sure that the GP services that we offer in the future are as good as possible.’

He reiterated calls to ‘change the rules’ to enable technology such as GP at Hand to work better in the system. 

He said: ‘I know the arrival of GP at Hand has complicated the way that GP services are funded and commissioned because technically everybody moves on to a list somewhere in Fulham… but that’s because that’s how the old rules operated so we need to change those rules.’

The BMA called for an end to out-of-area regulations last month in an effort to promote equitable access to digital systems.

RCGP chair Professor Helen Stokes-Lampard said: ‘GPs aren’t afraid of tech or innovation… but for me the priority has to be that it’s safe, that it reduces workload and doesn’t increase it, that it’s something that’s accessible to all people.

‘One of the challenges we have at the moment is that some of the new innovations that are coming in are widening the health divide.’

This comes after concerns that Babylon’s GP at Hand model, which now has over 44,000 patients, was destabilising practice income by registering patients to a host practice in London from across the city.

Readers' comments (16)

  • Difference is we cannot cherry pick and filter out patients who involve a lot of work.

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  • Doctor McDoctor Face

    What has private or public got to do with it. I am contractually obliged to see all patients regardless and undertake home visits.
    Shows he hasnt a clue.

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  • Dyslexic Matt Hancock- best man for the job? OMFG.

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  • Ignorance is bliss, out his depth, at least imac was a worthy adversary

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  • Vinci Ho

    Not interested in the superficial meaning of the idea but more importantly, the meanings behind:
    (1) One word to describe this : Desperate .
    The state of resources in the NHS has become so dire that technocrats and policy makers are not only out of ideas , but also losing any control of the downfall. Who’s fault is that? (I will let you answer this one).
    (2)Evidently , the trend is now getting the ‘less senior’ grade to do the jobs of the ‘more senior’ grade ,for instance ,student nurses becoming district nurses , nurses or physician assistants becoming GPs , salaried GPs replacing all partners and in this article, GPs becoming obstetricians to perform C-section(10-15 years ago , nobody would ever have an appetite to consider this)
    (3)Like above comments suggested , training and getting GPs to do complicated procedures is not unheard , especially in the much less resourced and developing countries. The whole idea of training a GP to do C-section is probably , not stupid , but exciting to those GPs with extended interest (previously called GPwSI) in O&G .But it goes back to the primal argument that adequate resources(money , time , manpower and expertise simultaneously) must be there first. Otherwise, this is another New Emperor’s clothes or Big White Elephant in the room.
    (4) The saddest thing is how out of touch these so called ‘visionaries’ are amongst the technocrats. If you ask me , we are where we are, I would rather to have new investments in developing AI robots to perform C-section (like what I wrote about around the clock social care in another comment) , if one is so desperate to find a ‘solution’ to progress.
    (5)Confucius had a rather conservative saying in Analects,’ If the label is not correct , the words cannot ring true (hence , not convincing) . And if the words cannot ring true , the task can never be completed successfully.’ (名不正 ,則言不順。言不順,則事不成)。
    I suppose there is some truth in this........

    This epitomises the dysfunctional and destructive attitude of successive health secretaries towards the unique model of NHS general practice , which has been a hybrid of private and public business infrastructure. GPs had been self employed but still under heavy scrutiny of the the state . GMS (as well as PMS) contract is something a private enterprise would put up a ‘No Entry’ sign . Hence , we had the birth of APMS contract. It is not surprising that no new GMS was granted for the last decade in any part of the country(correct me if I am wrong ) . The surge in number of salaried GPs is simply one end product of this deliberate policy of destroying this traditional hybrid model of NHS general practice .
    But what is the stark evidence ultimately? The government has to swallow the pride and ego and admit that they cannot deliver the pledge of 5000 more GPs by 2020 while there is an ongoing haemorrhage with more GPs leaving ‘prematurely.’ And the government needs GP land to be the dumping ground of secondary care workloads as the cost is spiralling up.
    So I am not surprised that Mr Hancock’s argument that we were basically the same as a private company like Babylon. He was just reading out the writings in the ‘notebook’ passed onto him by our current Foerign Secretary.
    You have a hell lot more to learn about how to be a health secreatary , son . Go ahead to spend more time to play with your smartphone with these apps , by all means . Let’s see what happen ?
    Finally, (from an old fart) , you can ignore this if you want but this is one serious motto for you to remember, ‘ Your government needs GPs more than GPs need the government , right now .’

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  • Vinci Ho

    (Apology , accidentally included an old comment)
    This epitomises the dysfunctional and destructive attitude of successive health secretaries towards the unique model of NHS general practice , which has been a hybrid of private and public business infrastructure. GPs had been self employed but still under heavy scrutiny of the the state . GMS (as well as PMS) contract is something a private enterprise would put up a ‘No Entry’ sign . Hence , we had the birth of APMS contract. It is not surprising that no new GMS was granted for the last decade in any part of the country(correct me if I am wrong ) . The surge in number of salaried GPs is simply one end product of this deliberate policy of destroying this traditional hybrid model of NHS general practice .
    But what is the stark evidence ultimately? The government has to swallow the pride and ego and admit that they cannot deliver the pledge of 5000 more GPs by 2020 while there is an ongoing haemorrhage with more GPs leaving ‘prematurely.’ And the government needs GP land to be the dumping ground of secondary care workloads as the cost is spiralling up.
    So I am not surprised that Mr Hancock’s argument that we were basically the same as a private company like Babylon. He was just reading out the writings in the ‘notebook’ passed onto him by our current Foerign Secretary.
    You have a hell lot more to learn about how to be a health secreatary , son . Go ahead to spend more time to play with your smartphone with these apps , by all means . Let’s see what happen ?
    Finally, (from an old fart) , you can ignore this if you want but this is one serious motto for you to remember, ‘ Your government needs GPs more than GPs need the government , right now .’

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  • Vinci Ho

    Deep down , I feel really sad about the choices in front of our young GP colleagues coming through the door . The way it goes , it is always unfavourable to join partnership where more and more existing partners leaving or retiring prematurely.The choice of starting your own new practice with an ambious small-business mentality is totally forbidden (our last GP registrar managing to do so was over 10 years ago), despite how much politicians said about supporting small businesses .
    So the choices left , otherwise ,are salaried, locum or profollio. Of course , it depends on the type and character of your employer . May be Babylon is treating our young colleagues quite well , I do not know , enlighten me on that ??
    ‘Do not enter a dangerous land. Do not live in a chaotic country . Make yourself well visible if the state is getting the Way . Hide yourself well away if the state has lost it.’
    Sigh , I can only agree with Confucius on this .........😔

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  • The Government has officially labelled the entire GP workforce as private healthcare professionals.

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  • It is time we go the dentist's way. The lawyers and dentists now far outgrown our pay. There is no need to subject ourselves to others that abuse our skills.

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  • If only GPs were private companies...

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