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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)

  • goodbye relationships with patients, sometimes spanning years
    goodbye longterm commitments to communities we work and live in
    goodbye the 'social capital' we earn that makes the system work
    goodbye continuity of care
    goodbye efficiency, and productivity in all areas apart from immediate access to discuss your 30 minutes of sore throat
    goodbye professional status

    hello to call centres
    hello to job insecurity
    hello to replacement by inadequate algorithms and 'computer says no'
    hello to replacement by outsourced HCAs working off those algorithms: what's a few patient 'incidents' compared to the cost savings and increased profits?
    hello to giving the customer what he or she wants, not what she needs - gotta get those 5 star reviews
    hello to a private personalised service - only for those who can afford it

    'would you like fries with that?'

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  • DT’s analyses are uncomfortable but accurate! To increase professionalism within Family Medicine will be hard slow and difficult. RCGP and BMA will need to face this challenge urgently

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  • This is the stark reality of our times and there is no escaping it. It's like legalizing marijuana - the dealers then lose their jobs. Has it's positive side though as at present we are slave driven by NHSE and cardigans in CCGs and LMCs. This is the other option, good or bad,but a choice that is ours to make.

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  • Dear All,
    We should not be fighting this, we should be working to safely incorporate it into the existing structures of the NHS.
    Regards
    Paul C

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  • Vinci Ho

    No surprise
    No blame on these colleagues

    ‘’When the hierarchy lost its way , people have already been desserting for long . If you understand the reasons in and out , you should be only sympathetic rather than being excited in tracking down ‘abnormal behaviour’ ‘’.
    Analects

    (上失其道,民散久矣。如得其情,則哀矜而勿喜)

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  • The Government has worked hard to enable this to happen. They are very foolish as it will cost much more and satisfaction for both patients and doctors will be less.

    Litigation costs are likely to increase due to the lack of personal relationships, and as the Government is likely to be funding the pay outs, it is a big lose lose situation for society.

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  • GPs gave up with relationship with patients years ago. This is the result. We went part-time, gave up being responsible for out of hours when in effect stopped being GPs for 3/5 of the week. Of course Babylon and GP at hand are disruptive, that the point as it seems it is what 18-40 years olds want from their health service. Most never knew the GP service use used to provide, hands on, take history, examine, and know the family and patient. It's over. I have to work in remote Scotland to practice as a GP in the way I know and prefer.

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  • existing GP practices need to be funded to allow us to take on this sort of work rather than creating a chaos of systems. Any experienced doctor knows that good medicine cannot be delivered in this way but I guess money is what is driving it.

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  • The decline of primary care accelerates with this Babylon, hanging gardens for GPs. It is a short term fix to satisfy the "needs" of patients to who T Blair and his cronies promised you can every service you want all the time, not that the current lot of miscreants have done anything to preserve the jewel in the crown of the NHS. primary care.
    It is clear that this is a get rich scheme to benefit it's creators with no thought for the consequences for the patients or those who are stupid enough to wok for them. One of the many slow train crashes occurring under our current, rudderless leadsers.

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  • Babylon is making huge financial losses, just like Uber and Tesla still do and Amazon did, until relatively recently. These companies are in the disruption business where they aim to take business from traditional providers using the internet and rapid access to their services. Babylon’s business model is to become the leading world provider of Uber style on-line medicine. The expectation is that this will take years, but that it will happen. Because of this the value of the company is very high, just like Tesla, which has been valued far higher than General Motors despite Tesla eating investors cash and making no profit.

    Babylon does have competitors in the UK, like Push Doctor among others, but there are a number of medical companies based in California that are already turning over far higher volumes of patients and cash flow. The Internet has brought about a huge change in business models and AI is about to change it again. It is pointless being a Luddite. Throughout history business models have evolved. This will continue. Cogora’s delivery of Pulse reaches further on-line than by printed word and I presume at a cheaper cost. What we should all be doing is looking at our own future to see where we will fit in if we can not retire.

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