London CCGs contest demands to pay for patients moving to GP at Hand

London CCGs are contesting demands that they pay for patients who have signed up to Babylon's controversial GP at Hand service.

Committee papers published by Tower Hamlets CCG’s primary care committee last month said CCGs across London were being told to ‘contribute to the cost’ of the service, which has used out-of-area patient registration rules to sign up tens of thousands of predominantly young patients.

Hammersmith and Fulham CCG warned earlier this year that it 'requires £18m of external support from NHS England to cover the GP at Hand accelerated costs'.

Tower Hamlets CCG board papers say it was instructed to ‘set aside’ money to cover the costs of patients who ‘reside in Tower Hamlets, but are registered with GP at Hand’. The service operates out of a GP practice in the Hammersmith and Fulham CCG area.

Patient fees

Tower Hamlets - along with ‘other London CCGs’ - are contesting the charge. Tower Hamlets board papers warned the demand for payment had triggered 'an increase in the cost pressure' on its primary care budget from £337,000 to £526,000. This would leave the CCG ‘under financial strain’, the primary care committee warned.

The CCG's financial advisor Steve Collins told the meeting that the CCG was questioning whether it should have to pay, and how much.

Tower Hamlets LMC chair Dr Jackie Applebee also expressed concern and said the LMC ‘would raise this with NHS England’.

Tower Hamlets, along with Lambeth and Southwark CCGs, ‘are the three CCGs most impacted by this cost pressure’, the board papers reveal. The plans have yet to be finalised and a meeting of London CCG finance officers is set to 'work through the issues arising’.

GP at Hand

A Babylon GP at Hand spokesman said: ‘The needs of patients have to be put first. Regardless of which NHS practice they register with, they should never be denied local NHS care. People who choose Babylon GP at Hand as their NHS GP must be able to access the full range of NHS services local to them, just like any other NHS patient can, and this care should be fully funded.’

NHS England, meanwhile, has denied ordering London CCGs to transfer funding to pay for patients from their area who register with GP at Hand. A spokesperson told GPonline: ‘At no point has an instruction been issued by us to London CCGs to pay Hammersmith and Fulham CCG.

‘The law makes clear that CCGs are responsible for commissioning services for - amongst others - those patients on the registered lists of their local GP practices, so individual CCGs' funding is updated periodically to reflect this. In that sense, the money follows the patient, based on their choice of GP practice.’

GPonline has contacted Hammersmith & Fulham CCG and Tower Hamlets CCG for comment.

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