Babylon GP at Hand opens doors to NHS patients in second major city

Babylon GP at Hand has begun recruiting NHS patients in Birmingham, in a move that could further accelerate the growth of its controversial video consultation service.

Smartphone consultation (Photo: Towfiqu Photography/Getty Images)
Smartphone consultation (Photo: Towfiqu Photography/Getty Images)

GPonline reported earlier this week that the digital-first service - which has already registered more than 54,000 patients who live and work in London - had been given the green light to begin recruiting patients in Birmingham and Solihull.

GP at Hand has now confirmed that the service is opening for patients in the Midlands region from 8am on 19 June. For three months, the service will be limited to recruiting a maximum of 2,600 patients within the Birmingham City Council and Solihull Metropolitan Borough Council boundaries.

However, a review will be carried out in August 'to assess whether the restrictions on geography and the list size limit could be withdrawn', according to documents published this week by Hammersmith and Fulham CCG.

GP at Hand expansion

A GP at Hand spokesperson confirmed this week that the service had leased premises in the Birmingham area from an out-of-hours GP provider - and the company confirmed that it plans to expand to further locations within the area.

Patients recruited from Birmingham will be added to the same registered list as patients recruited in London - a list held through a subcontracting arrangement with a host practice in Fulham, London.

Babylon medical director Dr Matthew Noble said: 'Many people have been used to waiting two or more weeks for a GP appointment. Babylon GP at Hand is loved by patients as they can often see a GP within 30 minutes.'

He said the service - which uses many GPs working from home - was 'valued by GPs who can enjoy flexible working' and 'can save the NHS money'.

NHS GP practice

Babylon confirmed the first GP at Hand Birmingham clinic is at 121 Glover Street and will open Monday to Friday 8am-6:30pm.

Babylon GP at Hand describes itself as a 'full NHS GP practice, with no restrictions on which groups of patients can register', and denies claims that it has 'cherry-picked' younger patients.

However, patients attracted to the service have been predominantly young - with 85% of people signed up with the service now aged between 20 and 39 years old. Across the registered patient population of England as a whole, just 28% of patients are aged in this range.

GP leaders said earlier this year that the decision to allow GP at Hand to expand to Birmingham was 'premature and disappointing'. A major independent report commissioned by Hammersmith and Fulham CCG found earlier this year that the service may be unsustainable if rolled out across a wider population.

It also found that GP at Hand had attracted predominantly young, wealthy patients who use NHS services with above-average frequency despite being healthier than the average for their age.

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