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RCGP chair attacks ‘bully boy tactics’ of tech firms



The chair of the RCGP will today attack the ‘bully boy’ tactics adopted by tech firms, who are ‘siphoning off’ younger and fitter patients.

In her speech to the RCGP conference starting in Glasgow today, Professor Helen Stokes-Lampard will say that GPs are not ‘technophobic dinosaurs’, but ‘sky high’ costs make it impossible to keep up with ‘wealthy tech companies’.

She will tell delegates that tech firms are using ‘bully boy tactics’ if anyone challenges their methods.

In response, tech company Babylon accused the college and CCGs respectively of ‘bully boy tactics’ for highlighting ‘erroneous’ errors and preventing Babylon from expanding.

Babylon has been criticised for its GP at Hand service, which offers video consultations within two hours and access to a doctor 24/7 for NHS patients across London.

However, it has been criticised by GPs for ‘cherry picking’ patients as it advises certain patients to ‘discuss’ whether it may be ‘appropriate’ to register with ‘a practice closer to home’.

These include pregnant women and patients with learning difficulties, drug dependency, complex mental health conditions, frailty or dementia. It says this advice followed discussions with NHS England.

Professor Stokes-Lampard will describe the GP at Hand technology as ‘impressive’, but will say that the way it targets younger patients threatens the financial model of traditional NHS general practice, ‘whereby the funding for fit and well people helps pay for the sick and needy’.

She will say: ‘Those with the latest smart phone, those who speak English and live in cities, those who have high speed broadband, are being offered something that others are not,” she will say.

‘I believe that with the right use of technology in the future NHS we can actually aim to reduce health inequalities and counteract some of the adverse social determinants of health. But GPs on the frontline just can’t afford the investment in technology, most of us aren’t being propped up by wealthy venture capitalists, after all.

‘We need technology that works for patients, makes our lives easier and is not lining the pockets of private investors at the expense of the NHS.’

She will add: ‘I get really exasperated when I hear accusations that GPs are technophobic dinosaurs. What utter nonsense.

‘GPs are not “afraid” of technology or innovation. But robots don’t come cheap, tech costs money, and for GP practices that are already on the brink, implementing new, good technology is unfeasible.’

In response, Dr Mobasher Butt, Babylon’s medical director, said: ‘It is great to see the RCGP openly highlight ‘bully boy’ tactics because this is the very stance the incumbents have taken with organisations like Babylon, who dare to go against the grain in order to improve patient care.

‘As an organisation, we have certainly seen our fair share of such ‘bully boy’ tactics, including the refusal by local CCG’s to let us use empty consulting rooms and blocking access to treatment for their most vulnerable residents. Additionally, the RCGP has deployed their own tactics by repeatedly writing to their members in weekly newsletters highlighting erroneous concerns about GP at Hand.’