The proportion of patients deregistering from a digital GP provider and returning to their original practice is three times higher than patients switching between traditional practices.
In London – where digital provider Babylon GP at Hand is based – more than a third of patients at digital practices go back to their previous GP surgery within a year of moving to the new one, according to NHS England analysis.
But at traditional practices in London just 12% of patients deregister within 12 months to return to their prior GP, said NHS England, which carried out the analysis as part of a new consultation on rules for providing digital-first primary care.
Babylon has said according to its own analysis, its patient churn is now around the London average.
Documents published by NHS England last week concluded that digital-first providers have a higher patient churn – the rate of registration and subsequent de-registration.
They also said it was ‘likely’ digital-first GP practices would continue to have a high rate of patient registrations as these services expand.
NHS England is therefore proposing new rules that would mean GP practices only receive their patient registration premium – extra money for new people added to their list – if a patient remains registered with a new practice for a minimum of between six and 12 months.
The NHS England documents said: ‘We know that the proportion of patients in London practices returning to their original practice within one year of moving to a new practice is 12%, while for digital models it is more than three times that rate.’
They added: ‘The premium does not fully account for patient churn. This is because it is calculated at the end of each quarter, based on the proportion of a practice’s registered list that joined during the previous twelve months.’
But a Babylon spokesperson said that as GP at Hand has become more established, fewer patients have been deregistering.
The spokersperson said: ‘The longer Babylon GP at Hand has been running, the less patients have been leaving and our most recent figures show that patients are leaving Babylon GP at Hand at around the London average rate for practices.
‘Our culture has a strong focus on continual improvement, and it’s our ambition to make our service so good that this rate will continue to drop and, as we expand with more clinics across the UK we expect that people will stay with us even if they are moving to a new job or home.’