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Babylon recruiting GPs for Birmingham NHS surgery despite CCG block

Exclusive Private company Babylon is recruiting GPs for an expansion of its NHS offering in Birmingham – despite its plans currently being blocked by commissioners.

As Pulse reported earlier this month, Babylon wants to add a physical presence in the UK’s second-largest city so it can begin offering its GP at Hand app to NHS patients based there.

It has already signed up over 30,000 NHS patients from across London to the app since its November launch of the service, which pledges an online consultation within two hours and a face-to-face appointment at one of a number of London locations the next day if required.

The Birmingham expansion would still be via its NHS host practice Dr Jefferies and Partner in southwest London, via the out-of-area registration scheme, and as such require the go-ahead of NHS Hammersmith and Fulham CCG.

But earlier this month CCG board papers revealed that it had so far blocked the plans, because of concerns over patient safety.

Despite this, Babylon is advertising two showcase events this week for Birmingham-based GPs who want to be part of its ‘amazing journey’ and who ‘would flourish in one of the most dynamic environments in the UK’.

Headlined ‘Babylon health are coming to Birmingham!’, the advert states: ‘Babylon are looking for enthusiastic, motivated GPs to provide excellent clinical service to our growing patient list.’

Asked about the campaign, Babylon’s director of NHS services Paul Bate told Pulse: ‘Yes, that’s correct… We are recruiting, although we won’t go live with the service without the approval of [NHS] Hammersmith and Fulham CCG, as that is what’s required.’

He added that while the plans continue to be considered by the CCG, the company’s ‘intentions to offer the service in Birmingham remain’.

He said: ‘It is contingent on the [CCG] decision, and they’re continuing to look at that, as they made clear in their July committee meeting. I think it will be coming back to the committee in August.’

A Babylon spokesperson added: ‘We are recruiting for a GP at Hand clinic in Birmingham, in order to offer people across the city convenient access to 24/7 high quality NHS GP care – typically within two hours of booking an appointment. The decision on the expansion of the GP at Hand service lies with [NHS] Hammersmith and Fulham CCG.’

The company said it had no target for how many GPs it wants to recruit in Birmingham at present.

Online GP appointments coming to Birmingham

Babylon said earlier this year that it was looking to expand its NHS app to patients in other cities in the UK.

The company has also recently been in talks with Birmingham-based GP superpractice Modality about becoming the technology provider for its in-house online appointment offering.

And Pulse revealed earlier this year that Push Doctor was approaching Birmingham GP practices in a bid to provide its services to NHS patients. The company currently offers video GP consultations ‘within minutes’, at a cost of £20, to private patients.

Last month the new health secretary Matt Hancock said that he is a GP at Hand user and thinks the service is ‘brilliant’.

And in his first speech since taking the role, Mr Hancock said that the NHS should ensure that new technology such as Babylon’s GP at Hand app becomes available to all patients.

But GP leaders including the the BMALondonwide LMCs and the RCGP have raised concerns about the app’s ‘cherry picking’ of fit, young and healthy patients – a claim Babylon denies.