Inspectors visited Babylon GP at Hand in January, CQC reveals

CQC inspectors visited Babylon GP at Hand in January, the watchdog has revealed, after GPonline reported this month that the digital element of the service has never been rated.

The watchdog confirmed late last year that the service could face inspection imminently because of the rapid growth in its patient population and the shift to a digital-first model.

A report published in March last year - based on an inspection in November 2017 - rated the south-west London practice that hosts GP at Hand 'good' - but made clear that the digital element of the service had not been considered.

Between November 2017 and March 2019, the patient population registered with GP at Hand grew from less than 5,000 to more than 45,000 - and the service has now been approved by NHS England for expansion to Birmingham.

CQC inspection

However, after GPonline reported on GP leaders' criticism of the CQC's failure to re-assess the service, the watchdog revealed that it had carried out an inspection in January - having previously said it could not comment on plans to inspect individual providers. The CQC confirmed that an updated report and rating of GP at Hand would be published 'in due course'.

The RCGP, along with GP leaders in London and Birmingham, have been calling for Babylon GP at Hand to face inspection 'as a matter of urgency', warning that all providers must operate on a level playing field to ensure patient safety.

The regulator has confirmed that the latest inspection of GP at Hand was carried out in line with updated CQC guidelines, which include new questions to take into account digital tools now in use by a growing number of primary care providers.

Prompts to be used when considering 'triage apps supporting healthcare services' mean that inspectors will ask how practices assure themselves that such apps are 'functioning as intended'. Inspectors will consider how an app would 'handle a problem that could become urgent, for example abdominal pain', and ask how 'those who procured the triage solution assured that the triage solution is safe and effective'.

Quality care

Launching the updated inspection guidelines last year, deputy CQC chief inspector of general practice Ruth Rankine said: ‘Where we see new technology becoming linked with direct patient care, the way people access services is changing. As new systems develop, we need to make sure that people are still able to access the appropriate, high quality care that they deserve.’

NHS England officials are now working with NHS Hammersmith and Fulham CCG - which hosts the service in London - and Birmingham and Solihull CCG to agree a date for GP at Hand’s expansion.

A Babylon GP at Hand spokesperson said earlier this month: 'Babylon GP at Hand is very happy to be inspected by the CQC whenever they wish and we are inspected regularly, just like any provider. We are proud of our services and are ready to demonstrate why.'

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