CCG expects spike in GP at Hand registrations after marketing drive

Numbers of patients registering with GP at Hand have spiked in recent weeks and are expected to continue to grow after an advertising campaign, the CCG hosting the service has said.

Phone consultation (Photo: iStock.com/diego_cervo)
Phone consultation (Photo: iStock.com/diego_cervo)

Board papers published by Hammersmith and Fulham CCG say that the practice - which has now officially been renamed Babylon GP at Hand - has 'recently commenced an updated marketing initiative comprising of both social media and physical adverts'.

Registration rates have 'increased over the last few weeks accordingly', the papers reveal, and are expected to continue to rise.

The number of patients registered with the GP at Hand service rose to 36,489 by 1 November - more than seven times the number of patients on the practice list 12 months earlier.

Patient list

Almost half of patients registered with the service are aged between 20 and 29 years old, and around 83% are aged 20-39 - sparking accusations of 'cherry picking', which have been denied by GP at Hand and the company Babylon, on whose technology the service relies.

The rapid rise in patient numbers at the practice has left Hammersmith and Fulham CCG struggling financially. Earlier this year, the CCG warned it would need an £18m bailout from NHS England to cope with the sharp rise in patients from outside its geographical area signing up with GP at Hand.

However, the latest board papers say NHS England has 'continued to provide assurance that the financial impact of GP at Hand on the CCG will be fully mitigated'.

Hammersmith and Fulham CCG's board papers say 'around 2,500' patients a month have been signing up, but that this has been 'offset by a number of patients leaving the practice'.

Expansion blocked

The CCG papers confirm that GP at Hand remains prohibited from expanding outside the London region while NHS England staff 'work through possible solutions' to potential problems identified with a proposed expansion to Birmingham.

Meanwhile, the CCG documents confirm that a list of restrictions on who can register with GP at Hand will be removed from the practice's website, although patients 'will still be advised that sometimes it may not be clinically appropriate for them to register with a practice that is not local to their home'.

A Babylon webpage entitled 'Can anyone register?' currently says that the NHS believes the service may be less appropriate for:

  • Women who are or may be pregnant (If you are pregnant, NHS England advises that you register with a GP practice close to where you live).
  • Adults with a safeguarding need.
  • People living with complex mental health conditions.
  • People with complex physical, psychological and social needs.
  • People living with dementia.
  • Older people with conditions related to frailty.
  • People requiring end of life care.
  • Parents of children who are on the ‘Child at risk’ protection register.
  • People with learning difficulties.
  • People with drug dependence.

In an update on clinical risk management at Babylon GP at Hand, the CCG says an assessment of technology products used by the service have met required NHS safety standards.

Health secretary Matt Hancock said last month that the GP funding model may have to change to accommodate the emergence of services such as Babylon.

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