Babylon will be required to set up local practices and hold separate contracts with commissioners in the regions it operates, under NHS England plans approved this week.
NHS England approved its proposals governing digital-first GP providers at a board meeting yesterday, following a consultation on the plans, which are in part aimed at encouraging new digital practices to open premises in deprived areas.
In a document published yesterday, NHS England confirmed that once a practice registers more than 1,000 out-of-area patients in another CCG, it will be required to hold a new APMS contract.
‘This will ensure that digital-first services are connected back wherever possible to local service delivery via a new APMS contract in that CCG,’ said the document.
It added that it would ‘normally expect premises to be established under each new APMS contract’.
Babylon, which runs its digital-first NHS GP at Hand practice in London but has signed up patients from across the country, said it ‘will work closely with all our commissioners to assess where futher clinics are required’.
NHS England’s director of primary care, Dr Nikki Kanani, and director of primary care contracts Ed Waller spoke to the board about the consultation findings.
Board members approved plans for Babylon GP at Hand to ‘disaggregate’ its patient list into 17 separate APMS contracts in different CCG areas.
Mr Waller said: ‘In the first instance that means a single list in Hammersmith and Fulham CCG will turn into 17 lists, one in Hammersmith and Fulham and one in 16 other CCGs where more than 1,000 patients are registered.’
Dr Kanani underlined her support for the proposals by referring to a case in which she said access to a digital GP practice could have meant a patient was diagnosed with cancer at an earlier stage.
She said: ‘For decades general practice has been digital pioneers and we can see those examples in some spaces around the country. What we want to do is offer that to all of our patients around the country.
‘Recently, I had a patient who told me, as a nomadic boat dweller, she is unable to get the care that she really needs. What that meant was she was diagnosed with breast cancer at stage four. We can avoid that. What this paper does is begin to set out that story and those first steps.’
Responding to the plans being approved, a Babylon GP at Hand spokesperson said: ‘These proposals are a vote of confidence in the unparalleled access to high-quality primary care that Babylon GP at Hand brings. The proposals will enable patients across England to choose Babylon GP at Hand, and we welcome the commitment to retain our current funding levels.
‘We will continue to expand our digital and in-person services, having already added three new clinics this year in addition to our usual 24/7/365 digital access to GPs within minutes.’
They added: ‘We will work closely with all our commissioners to assess where further clinics are required. The consultation response is explicit that clinics are not required in each CCG if there is another clinic within a reasonable travel time, saying “for example in particularly urban areas where premises are easily accessible in a neighbouring CCG”.
‘NHS England have established that 40 minutes is a reasonable maximum travel time to a Babylon GP at Hand clinic and we expect this to form the basis for future guidance.’