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Babylon patients waiting weeks for travel vaccines due to rising service demands

Patients registered with Babylon GP at Hand are experiencing long waits for travel vaccines, as the service is struggling to meet rising demand.

The issues came to light on social media, when a patient complained about having to wait weeks to see the only travel nurse available to get vaccinated. 

Babylon said it is currently ‘reviewing’ the travel vaccine service capacity and may signpost patients to an ‘alternative travel clinic’.

GP leaders said while many practices ‘struggle with travel clinics’, its is interesting to see that the digital-first model is coming under strain, and suggested it could be down to the lack of face-to-face appointments. 

Jordan Priestley from North London told Pulse the issue with getting vaccinated happened to his friend, while he was present.

In a post to Babylon earlier this week, he wrote: ‘[I] find it appalling that you have only one travel nurse covering all 10,000+ of your patients in London. 3.5 to 4 weeks for an appointment – and then a further three week wait for vaccines is absolutely absurd. So we now have to contact 15 weeks before travel?’

Babylon GP at Hand, which now has 40,000 patients, has issued a statement on the issue to patients, on its website.

It said: ‘Please be aware we are currently reviewing the capacity for this service, and you may be signposted to an alternative travel clinic. The advice and vaccination is provided by a specialist trained nurse.

‘To book a telephone consultation regarding your upcoming travel plans, please contact our support team. You will need to book your appointment at least eight weeks before you plan to travel.

‘Following a phone consultation with one of our nurses, if appropriate, you will then be booked in for vaccinations at our Munster Road clinic.’

Tower Hamlets GP and LMC chair Dr Jackie Applebee said: ‘I think we all struggle with travel clinics, our practice nurse has just been saying how long the appointments have to be because there is so much to go over, so there does need to be quite a lot of capacity to provide them.

‘But, the demographic that Babylon GP at Hand attracts will be people who are more likely to need/want travel clinic services.’

‘It is interesting that their model seems to be coming under some strain, I wonder if this partly due to their limited capacity for face to face appointments,’ she added.

A Babylon spokesperson told Pulse it is currently expanding the service to meet the rising demand.

They said: ‘Like many other NHS GP practices, Babylon GP at hand provides travel health clinic services. The popularity of this service with more than 40,000 London-based GP at hand patients has prompted us to extend it.

‘Babylon GP at hand gives the best accessibility of any NHS GP practice as appointments are available 24 hours a day, 365 days per year and slots are usually available in minutes.’

Last month, Pulse revealed that the CCG hosting Babylon GP at Hand might not be able to ‘pay its bills’, due to finanicial pressures caused by tens of thousands of patients signing up to the digital-first NHS GP service.