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GPC to ‘seek legal advice’ over Babylon’s attempt to register London patients

The BMA is set to look at a potential judicial review regarding the online ‘GP at Hand’ service that was launched in London this week.  

LMC leaders voted in favour of a motion calling on the GP Committee to ‘seek urgent legal advice’ on the ‘potential judicial review’.

However, it was unclear whether such legal action would be taken against NHS England London, the commissioners of the practice that is running the scheme; the practice itself; or Babylon, the private provider of the GP at Hand app.

Proposing the motion, Dr Susie Bayley from Derbyshire LMC said: ‘A centrally commissioned service that favours the well above the ill is contractually and morally questionable.

‘Whatever your feelings on the nature of the future of NHS general practice, we cannot allow public monies to be used to commission a service that favours patients with no complex problems and only if they have access to certain technology. This will lead to huge inequity.’

Dr Emma Rowley-Conway from Lambeth LMC added, speaking in favour: ‘I think online technology has great potential but it is an adjunct, people actually really want a human being to consult when they are really unwell and technology like this is useful alongside core general practice but it isn’t a substitute.’

No delegates came forward to speak against the motion.

Private GP provider Babylon has caused shockwaves with its plans to sign up patients from across London to its online ‘GP at Hand’ service.

It has started offering its online GP service on the NHS as a replacement for regular GP practices across London, with plans to expand the service to the rest of England.

Babylon promises that patients will be able to ‘book an appointment within seconds’ via its smartphone app and have ‘a video consultation with an NHS GP typically in under two hours of booking, anytime, anywhere’.

Pulse revealed that Babylon is working with a GMS practice, and plans to use the Government’s flagship ‘GP Choice’ scheme, which allows GMS practices to sign up patients from outside their traditional boundaries.

GP leaders said they would ‘cherry-pick’ patients, and the GP at Hand website said some patients with certain conditions may not be advised to use the service during the rollout. Dr Jefferies and Partner, the GP practice involved, said no patients would be ‘excluded’.

GP leaders said that this model is a ‘cynical exploitation’ of the GP Choice scheme, and warned that other people would look to replicate it – leaving other practices to deal with more complex patients.

BMA spokesman said: ‘It is important that any new system of registering patients does not damage the financial stability of GP practices and delivers safe, effective care on an equal basis for all patients wherever they live .

‘This motion reflects the need for greater clarity on how these new proposals should work and the BMA will be seeking to meet those involved to discuss a way forward.’

The motion in full

DERBYSHIRE: That conference, with regard to the ‘GP at Hand’ service launched this week and any other similar services:

(i) deplores the use of public funds, including any GP Forward View monies, to promote inequitable access to NHS-branded GP services

(ii) demands that GPC commences urgent negotiations with the [health secretary] to compensate practices from which registrations are switched for the loss of practice income incurred as a result of any patient registering with such services

(iii) demands that the GPC seeks urgent legal advice regarding the options available and the potential for a judicial review, to challenge the decision to introduce this service