Hammersmith MP calls for government inquiry into GP at Hand


The MP for Hammersmith is calling on the Health and Social Care Committee to carry out an inquiry into GP at Hand.

Andy Slaughter has written to Dr Sarah Wollaston, chair of the committee, about the app which allows people to carry out video-consultations with their GP through their smartphones, as well as triaging their symptoms.

GP at Hand, which is powered by Babylon Health, has its primary practice practice in Lille Road in Hammersmith and Fulham.

In his letter to Wollaston, which he posted on Twitter,  Slaughter says he has a number of “serious concerns” about the app which was launched on the NHS in 2017.

This includes the issue of GP at Hand distorting GP funding, as everyone who signs up for the service is automatically registered to the practice in west London and de-registered from their original GP.

He also suggests that Hammmersmith and Fulham CCG was facing potential additional costs of more than £20million in order to continue funding Babylon’s GP at Hand practice, which is double figures reported in March 2018.

Slaughter said: “The practice has seen its patient list grow enormously to around 48,000 in the space of only a few years, making it one of the ten largest GP practices in the UK.

“This has created an accumulated funding deficit of at least £26million for the period 2018-2020, which is currently being borne by H&F CCG [Hammersmith and Fulham Clinical Commissioning Group], but this could grow markedly if the service expands outside of London.”

In his letter, Slaughter also raises concerns about the software behind GP at Hand.

He added: “Doubts and concerns are being expressed by practitioners as to whether the software and operating model of GP at Hand is robust enough to deal with the whole range of conditions which it purports to be able to diagnose and treat,”

Other concerns included the public support shown from the secretary of state for health and social care, Matt Hancock, and doubts surrounding the “software and operation model”.

In a statement, Babylon said: “Babylon welcomes scrutiny from any governing group or regulator, as we are proud to demonstrate how we can use our technology to work with the NHS and help it cope with the rising demands and costs that are impacting patient care.

“There are a few points raised in the letter that we want to address. Babylon GP at Hand service does not exclude anyone – it is designed to provide high-quality NHS primary medical services for people of all ages, whether in good health or not.

“We have a dedicated complex care team, which means we can offer the right level of care right across the spectrum, encompassing both physical and mental health care.”

It’s full statement can be seen below.

A Babylon spokesperson said: “Babylon welcomes scrutiny from any governing group or regulator, as we are proud to demonstrate how we can use our technology to work with the NHS and help it cope with the rising demands and costs that are impacting patient care.

“There are a few points raised in the letter that we want to address. Babylon GP at Hand service does not exclude anyone – it is designed to provide high-quality NHS primary medical services for people of all ages, whether in good health or not. We have a dedicated complex care team, which means we can offer the right level of care right across the spectrum, encompassing both physical and mental health care.

“Babylon’s clinical services and technology have been thoroughly tested and are continuously reviewed and assured by UK healthcare bodies including NHS England, the Care Quality Commission, NHS Digital and local NHS Clinical Commissioning Groups. In November 2018 NHS England reviewed Babylon’s approach to Clinical Safety and Information Governance for Babylon’s core NHS services, stating ‘Each safety case meets the standards required by the NHS and has been completed using a robust assessment methodology to a high standard’.

“The report can be found here: https://www.hammersmithfulhamccg.nhs.uk/media/141350/PCCC-Item-8d-B-Update-on-GP-at-Hand-Clinical-Safety-and-Info-Gov-review-MJ.pdf

“Waiting times matter as delays to seeing a GP result in delays to diagnosis and treatment. In October 2018 NHS Digital showed that 20% of GP patients have to wait two to seven days, 14.5% have to wait eight to fourteen days and a further 18% have to wait for more than two weeks.

“The report is here: https://digital.nhs.uk/data-and-information/publications/statistical/appointments-in-general-practice/oct-2018

“In contrast, Babylon’s patients can usually get a video consultation within two hours, often within 30 minutes. Consultations can happen at any time of day or night, 365 days of the year, and there is no need to wait for a surgery to be open, nor problems with getting through on the phone or waiting on hold.

Babylon is not taking money from other practices by having younger patients. There is a Carr-Hill formula that is the basis for how NHS GP clinics are funded. It weights payments by age and gender, as well as other factors so that practices are paid depending on who registers with them. The amount varies from below £35 per 15-44 man, to over £190 for each person over the age of 85.”

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