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RCGP calls for Hancock to reconsider GP at Hand endorsement

The RCGP chair has called on the health secretary to clarify his position on GP at Hand after he endorsed the app for a national roll out earlier this month. 

In a letter to Matt Hancock, Professor Helen Stokes-Lampard expressed concern that ‘a further roll out of GP at Hand… will adversely impact on traditional surgeries’, which could be left ‘a disproportionate number of patients with multiple, long-term conditions’.

This comes after Mr Hancock said he wants ‘to see GP at Hand available to all, not based on their postcode’, adding that GP at Hand will improve access for patients, even if they don’t use the app because it is ‘taking pressure off the NHS’.

However, Professor Stokes-Lampard said: ‘While it may appear as if GP at Hand has a potential role alleviating some pressures on NHS general practice, and whilst we welcome the fact that some patients may receive quicker access to services, we have serious concerns about the unintended impact on wider primary care.’ 

She said that the app has the potential to create a ‘two-tier’ primary care service ‘where healthier patients… can get an online appointment quickly and conveniently whilst those with the greatest clinical need… find it more difficult to access timely care’.

Professor Stokes-Lampard added that until there is a ‘a massive and rapid overhaul of the funding model for general practice… GP at Hand should not be rolled out further in the NHS’.

NHS England is currently reviewing the general practice funding model to accommodate digital first practices, but the BMA has already said the proposals are ‘not appropriate’.

RCGP chair Professor Helen Stokes-Lampard has previously said the NHS has ‘a lot to learn’ from Babylon’s ‘phenomenal’ GP at Hand app, which she said was ‘disrupting’ general practice.

Readers' comments (9)

  • The issue isn’t with the tech. The issue is that it is a proxy for segregating cheap patients from expensive ones.

    We should follow the Swedish model where ACG scores determine each individual patient’s capitated primary care budget - it has led to increased primary care setting up in areas that serve the most complex patients and would render the Gp At Hand financial model obsolete.

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  • I’d always had doubts about working for Internet consultation companies, what with the whole not being able to examine the patient and having to guess what’s wrong with them scenario.
    Now the RCGP are opposite I realise I must be wrong and GP at hand will get my application tomorrow.

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  • I’m glad she spelled out her position so clearly. Welcoming this and that, cautioning the other.

    RCGP have got us into this mess by cosying up to the politicians in the scramble for gongs and sinecures.

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  • Vinci Ho

    I would argue that the energy and resources spent in this obsession of expanding smartphone-GPapps- AI ,could have well been diverted to Social Care.
    Money , expertise ,manpower and time are all very limited in looking after those most debilitated in our society. Around the clock care , perhaps could be better provided by AIs one day releasing labour back to frontline healthcare. I challenge these companies like Babylon which has, so far , presented itself as ‘visionary’.

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  • Big and Small- hitting the nail on the head. And if these organisations really do take anyone then why have a list of patients who "might be better served elsewhere". Traditional general practice is not allowed to do this.

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  • Vinci Ho

    The latest news is the wide-open exposure of the Conservative Conference apps giving people full access to all MPs’ personal details .
    https://news.sky.com/story/senior-tory-mps-phone-numbers-exposed-in-app-flaw-11512323
    Isn’t this confirming my concern all these times on the security of these GP apps , Mr Hancock(oh! wait a minute , let me see whether I can find your personal phone number from this Conservative party conference apps first!)??
    The big data of patients ,potentially , can be stolen as well as sold to a third party(story of Facebook-Cambridge Analytica- VoteLeave).
    Call me a scaremonger , please .

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  • Vinci Ho

    And the statement from the apps company is,

    ‘’The app's privacy policy states that it "complies with…the European Union's General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR)".
    Didn’t we hear that from these GP-apps companies already?

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  • "General practices needs to set up like dentists"

    My sister is earning £50K only 2 years after graduating from dental school. Yet her conscious is still clear as the majority of her work is NHS.

    Try telling that to an F2 slaving away on a night shift.

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  • Let common sense prevail

    It seems that the Babylon app provides an excellent service for those who want quick and cheap access to medical advice on non-complex matters. That's great, but financially this should be a service that customers pay for, whilst retaining free access for all through the NHS as an alternative.

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