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CCG removes cap on Babylon patient list ahead of Manchester expansion in 2020

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Babylon has been given the green light to remove the cap on the number of patients that can register with its GP at Hand service in Birmingham, as the online provider also confirmed expanding to Manchester in early 2020.

NHS Hammersmith and Fulham CCG approved the digital-first provider’s move to Birmingham in June, but with a limited patient list size of 2,600, alongside other restrictions including a catchment area limited to the boundaries of Birmingham and Solihull.

The CCG said in August that the cap could be lifted on the condition that measures to ensure the expansion would not impact on patient screening were implemented by 15 September.

Babylon today announced that ‘anyone in Birmingham who wants to join our popular NHS service is free to do so’.

The provider also confirmed plans to expand in Manchester in early 2020.

Babylon applied to launch a physical branch of its online services in Birmingham last year but the plans were initially rejected by NHS Hammersmith and Fulham CCG, who referred the decision to NHS England, due to concerns over patient safety in relation with local infrastructure.

This came after NHS Birmingham and Solihull CCG wrote a letter to the London CCG, formally objecting to the move on the grounds of ‘clinical safety’.

NHS England decided to lift its previous block in February. 

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A Babylon spokesperson said: ‘We welcome the news that Hammersmith and Fulham have agreed to remove the list size cap on 2,600 Babylon GP at Hand patients in Birmingham. We were assured that there would not be a long delay and are glad to see that was the case. This means anyone in Birmingham who wants to join our popular NHS service is free to do so.’

They added: ‘We are also working with Manchester CCG and our local commissioners in Hammersmith and Fulham to roll-out services in Manchester.

‘The plans are on schedule with commissioners having shared their assurance framework with us last week. As expected, the commissioners are following the same format of formally objecting in order to maintain control of the process while working closely with us, as they did in the run-up to us opening our services in Birmingham.

‘We expect to see Babylon GP at Hand offer in-person appointments and 24 hours a day digital appointments in Manchester in early 2020, in keeping with national policy that people have the right to choose their NHS practice.’

Last month, Babylon Partners Limited reported a £65m loss in its annual accounts, almost three times more than the previous year

Earlier this year, NHS England announced plans to make it easier for digital providers to set up practices in deprived areas from April 2020. 

In response, the BMA said out-of-area regulations should be scrapped as they are ‘not in line’ with wider NHS England policy. 

Elsewhere, Dominic Cummings, the Prime Minister’s most senior aide, recently came under fire for his advisory role with Babylon.