Manchester CCG objects to Babylon expansion ‘due to safety concerns’

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Manchester Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) has formerly objected to GP at Hand’s expansion to the city due to concerns over “safe and effective care”.

The digital GP provider, powered by Babylon, revealed in October it was in formal talks to expand to the northern city in early 2020.

But the CCG has now formally objected to the expansion saying it was “not convinced” Babylon’s services are sufficiently integrated with other local and national services.

“Whenever any new provider of health and care services plans to come into Manchester, our priority is to ensure that their services are high quality, meet the needs of local people, and contribute to the financial and clinical sustainability of the health and care system in the city,” a spokesperson for the CCG said.

“Whilst we believe that new digital approaches have the potential to enhance GP service provision in the city, we are not convinced that Babylon GP at Hand’s model of care is sufficiently integrated with other local and national services to ensure safe and effective care for local people. Areas of concern include screening programmes and safeguarding.

“We therefore asked Hammersmith and Fulham CCG, the formal commissioner of BGPaH, to object to the Babylon proposal to begin operating in Manchester from early 2020.”

Hammersmith and Fulham CCG objected to the expansion at their 17 December primary care commissioning committee meeting.

Papers from the meeting state objections were raised “on the grounds of risk to patient safety” and will remain in place until CCGs, the practice and partners implement “robust measures to ensure patients can access all local care pathways, particularly those relating to cancer screening and follow up treatment and local protocols for safeguarding”.

“We want all our residents to be able to access care through digital means, should they wish to, without disrupting the continuity of care, and links to other services, they are able to receive through their existing GP practice,” the Manchester CCG spokesperson added.

A cap on patient registrations of 1,001 was also put in place, to be reviewed and potentially lifted by January 2020 if patient safety concerns had been addressed.

Similar objections and restrictions were placed on GP at Hand when it announced plans to expand to Birmingham.

The cap of 2,600 patients at its Birmingham practice was lifted at the 17 December meeting, after concerns about access to local and national screening programmes were addressed.

A spokesperson for Babylon welcomed the removal of the patient registration cap, adding: “We are also working with Manchester CCG and our local commissioners in Hammersmith and Fulham to roll-out services in Manchester.

“The plans are on schedule with commissioners having shared their assurance framework with us last week. As expected, the commissioners are following the same format of formally objecting in order to maintain control of the process while working closely with us, as they did in the run up to us opening our services in Birmingham.

“We expect to see Babylon GP at Hand offer in-person appointments and 24 hour a day digital appointments in Manchester in early 2020, in keeping with national policy that people have the right to choose their NHS practice.”

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