Babylon health plans to expand its virtual GP service to Manchester after its reported success in attracting NHS patients to use its GP at Hand business. The private company, which offers fast GP appointments by video has attracted over 60,000 NHS patients in Birmingham and London and if its plan is accepted will be up and running in Manchester by early 2020.

Despite its potential expansion to three major cities, under current regulations patients who sign-up for GP at Hand are all registered with Babylon Health’s GP practice in Hammersmith & Fulham in West London; it is, therefore, this CCG that will be required to give approval for the expansion to Manchester.

Babylon’s expansion in this way has led to major financial problems for Hammersmith and Fulham CCG as it is responsible for thousands of new patients registered on GP at Hand whether they live in their area or not.

Hammersmith & Fulham CCG eventually gave approval for the expansion to Birmingham, with the proviso that no more than 2,600 patients be registered in the area in the first three months.

However, changes announced in late September by NHS England and NHS Improvement will change this and have a significant effect on the way Babylon Health operates from April 2020 onwards when they come into force.

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The new rules cover out-of-patient registration and mean that once 1,000 patients are registered in a CCG area by a provider outside this area, then the provider will be issued with a new APMS contract covering that area. This means the patient list is divided up and no single CCG bears the financial burden of thousands of extra out-of-area patients.

GP at Hand has approximately 60,000 patients living outside Hammersmith and Fulham CCG’s area and these patients will now have to be divided into 17 different lists in areas where GP at Hand has more than 1,000 patients.

Other changes mean that in the areas where the new contracts are issued to the digital-first GP providers they will probably be required to set up a physical clinic in the area.

There is also a proposal that new digital primary care providers should be required to set up in areas lacking doctors and primary care access is poor.

Figures obtained by GPonline suggest that more than one in four NHS patients who registered with Babylon GP at Hand quit the video consultation service within just over a year.



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