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One fifth of Babylon NHS patients 'switched back to original GP'

One in five patients who signed up with the GP at Hand app in southeast London has re-registered with their original GP practice, CCG board papers have revealed.

Since November, private company Babylon has made use of the out-of-area registration scheme, and a host GP practice in Fulham, to sign up over 20,000 NHS patients across London.

As a result, when patients sign up to the app - which promises an online GP appointment within minutes - they opt to remove themselves from the list of their existing local GP practice, in favour of Dr Jefferies and Partner in southwest London.

But, in addition to creating extra workload for practices, GP leaders suggested that the high rate of patients switching back suggested that 'some people are not aware' of what they are signing up to.

But Babylon said that 'as with any new service' there would be 'people who try it out and prefer alternatives'.

Quoting data obtained from NHS England, NHS Lambeth CCG board papers said that across the six CCGs in southeast London, 4,606 patients registered with GP at Hand between November 2017 and March 2018. But out of these 941 had since re-registered with their original GP practice.

CCG analysis of the practice-level data found it was 'not always the larger list practices that are showing larger numbers of patients choosing to transfer to GP at Hand', which it concluded 'may indicate other concerns about access' or that there were 'higher number of patients in that practice that "fit" with the GP at Hand demographics'.

It added that the CCG 'will keep this item under review to monitor numbers and trends'.

Dr Lisa Harrod-Rothwell, Londonwide LMCs lead medical director, told Pulse: ‘Patients de-registering and re-registering does create additional work for practices at a time when they are facing an already heavy administrative workload due to Capita, regulation and other pressures.

‘It also suggests that some people are not aware of the limitations of a primarily online provider at the point they switch away from community-based general practice, which offers a full range of services on their doorstep.

‘Whilst general practice in London is under immense pressure, we know that practices are sympathetic to patients who have found themselves in this position and have been able to register them back on to their lists.’

A Babylon spokesperson said: ‘Babylon has made it possible for people to choose a comprehensive digital-first NHS GP service.

‘The popularity of the service is clear: almost 50,000 people have applied to join, and over 85% of the more than 20,000 ratings received for digital appointments are for the full five stars.

‘As with any new service, particularly in the digital world, there will be people who try it out and prefer alternatives.

‘What matters is that people can choose the NHS GP practice that works best for them, and every month more and more people are choosing the 24/7 Babylon-powered NHS GP service.’

Pulse has contracted NHS England (London) for a comment.

GP leaders have previously warned that GP at Hand is 'cherry picking' young and healthy patients at the expense of other GP practices, but Babylon has said it has a diverse range of patients.

The impact of the launch of the new service on patient care has yet to be evaluated. NHS Hammersmith and Fulham CCG launched a bid in March worth £250k to hire an independent evaluator to assess the ‘outcomes and impacts’.

It has already determined that it will require an extra £18m in primary care allocations from NHS England to be able to balance the books in 2018/19 due to the swift influx of GP at Hand patients.

Southeast London patients registered with GP at Hand (March 2018)

CCGPatients registered with GP at HandPatients re-registered with original practiceUpdated total
Bexley 82 13 69
Bromley 199 34 165
Greenwich 518 131 387
Lambeth 1672 380 1292
Lewisham 777 158 619
Southwark 1358 225 1133
Total 4606 941 3665

Source: NHS Lambeth CCG

Readers' comments (6)

  • extra income for capita|
    more work for practice admin staff since they had to transfer paper records and then register the patients when they return to fold!!!

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  • I’d be very interested to see their antibiotic prescribing data.

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  • I'd be very interested to know anything at all about these guys!

    We are talking about practice minus all reference to examining the patient,investigations,follow up,continuity

    How do they manage a cough? or indeed anything at all for that matter.

    Clearly I, and indeed all my colleagues, have been doing it wrong all these years

    Please dear editor could we be at all enlightened

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  • AlanAlmond

    I don’t give a crap about ‘GP at hand’ gimme gimme gimme consumers. It’s called Darwinism / natural selection ...the foolish perish.

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  • Wish I could drop the most complex 20% of patients - since they probably contribute 80% of my workload for 20% of income!

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  • That proportion of patients moving GP without changing address would normally trigger a practice performance review in most regions.

    TBH I don't mind GP at Hand but I have a few concerns re the NHS/CCG here in that they are seemingly allowed to openly flout the GMS rules in several areas.

    All I want is a level playing field.

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