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7,000 patients join Babylon’s ‘GP at Hand’ service since launch

Exclusive Thousands of patients have joined the practice linked to Babylon Health’s ‘GP at Hand’ service in the past month, according to official statistics.

The NHS Digital statistics on patients registered at a GP practice revealed that Dr Jefferies and Partners’ Lillie Road Surgery has increased from 4,970 patients in November to 11,867 in December – an increase of 6,897 patients in one month. Babylon has said this is due to the launch of the online service.

Patients who join the online GP at Hand service leave behind their former GP practice and join the patient list of Dr Jefferies and Partners’ Lillie Road Surgery, which is able to take them on under the ‘GP Choice’ out-of-area registration scheme.

GP at Hand promises patients they 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’.

Patients can also have ‘an in-person appointment if needed at convenient city centre locations on the same or next day’ as well as having precriptions delivered to ‘a pharmacy of their choice’.

The service has been accused of ‘cherry-picking’ healthy and young patients when it started offering its online GP service on the NHS as a replacement for regular GP practices across London.

The RCGP has warned that the service, which NHS England has said may not be suitable to patients with a number of health conditions, is ‘creating a twin-track approach to NHS general practice’.

A spokesperson for Babylon confirmed the patient list increase is due to the GP at Hand service, saying: ‘We’ve had people from across the ages sign up, from children, to people over 80, to people with complex health needs, as well as people in good health.’

He added that patients are ‘loving the service’, with the GP at Hand app receiving a 95% approval rating from users.

Dr Richard Vautrey, chair of the BMA’s GP committee, said the patient list size increase is ‘not surprising’, considering ‘the significant advertising that this service has done’.

But he added that the GPC was ‘continuing to discuss our concerns about the service with NHS England and the impact it could potentially have on other practices’.

This comes after LMC leaders voted in favour of a motion calling on the GPC to ‘seek urgent legal advice’ on a ‘potential judicial review’ regarding the GP at Hand service.