Research and Technology

14.02.19

GP at Hand cleared to expand to Birmingham after NHS England lifts objections

Babylon’s controversial GP at Hand is to be expanded to Birmingham after NHS England reversed its decision to block the doctor app.

Babylon applied last year to launch its remote video consultation service in Birmingham, but the application was blocked over safety concerns with GP at Hand. An independent evaluation into the service is expected to be published next month.

But NHS England has lifted its objections after one of its officials informed Hammersmith and Fulham CCG, the hosts of GP at Hand, that a solution had been found to previous concerns over integrating the service with local screening and immunisation services.

Digital primary care company Babylon Health run the service which allows patients to book video appointments with GPs and health professionals. Matt Hancock has championed the start-up, but the service has attracted criticism from several trusts and GP leaders.

NHS Birmingham and Solihull CCG previously wrote a letter to the London CCG hosting the service formally objecting an expansion over grounds of ‘clinical safety,’ although Babylon has reportedly still started recruiting for the expansion.

Paul Jennings, the chief executive of the Birmingham trust, said it was supporting GP at Hand’s expansion as it develops its local digital offerings, and the service should be available to all Birmingham and Solihull practices by the end of March 2019.

He added: “We have previously raised concerns about GP at Hand’s expansion into the Birmingham area; our objections have nothing to do with improving technology, for the benefit of patients.

“Working as part of the wider local health and care system, we are excited about the digital developments ahead for Birmingham and Solihull.”

BMA GP committee chair Richard Vautrey called the announcement “incredibly disappointing” and “premature.”

He also pointed out that the independent evaluation of Babylon being carried out by Ipsos Mori is not due to be published until next month and called it “wholly inappropriate” to allow the service to expand without assurances over its safety and effectiveness.

Babylon said in a statement that it welcomed the news from NHS England and was “committed to expanding across the country, and will work closely with NHS England and local clinical commissioning groups on this.”

Image credit - 6okean

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