Top GPs hit out at 'irresponsible' failure to publish reports on GP at Hand

GP leaders have called for the publication of two key reports on GP at Hand - branding delays to an impact assessment and the lack of an up-to-date CQC rating for the service 'irresponsible'.

Online consultations (Photo: seb_ra/Getty Images)
Online consultations (Photo: seb_ra/Getty Images)

Dr Seth Dassanayake - who chairs the LMC in Hammersmith and Fulham, where GP at Hand is based, said that reports assessing the safety and impact of the controversial digital provider had not emerged quickly enough.

‘It seems irresponsible really,’ he told GPonline. ‘I don’t think there’s enough documentation in public circulation [showing] that these systems are safe and working well.'

GPonline reported last month that a report evaluating the impact of Babylon GP at Hand on patients, the primary care workforce and the wider healthcare system - conducted by market research firm Ipsos Mori - had been delayed. Pressure is also growing on the CQC to publish the findings from its latest GP at Hand inspection, which took place in January.

Despite the reports not yet being published, GP at Hand - which has a patient list size of almost 50,000 - has been granted permission to expand to Birmingham.

Call for evidence

Dr Dassanayake added that he was ‘uncomfortable’ about the level of information to support the video consultation service and would like to see more.

‘A lot of these [digital] systems, such as the NHS screening systems, have taken many decades to form and get accurate and better,’ he said. Dr Dassanayake said it was ‘really hard to understand’ why some ‘big decisions’ around GP at Hand had been made ‘very quickly’.

Echoing concerns set out by other GP leaders, he warned that GP at Hand did not seem to fit with plans for primary care networks that serve clear geographical areas, given that its patients are drawn from a wide area. ‘It seems totally out of step with the current move to be locality based and more integrated with local third party services, social services and local healthcare,’ he said.

Londonwide LMCs chief executive Dr Michelle Drage told GPonline: ‘There is an urgent need for robust and independent evidence on the clinical effectiveness of this technology and the absence of that from the pending independent evaluation is disappointing. Any proprietary technology which exists to financially benefit a commercial company should have independent, peer reviewed research funded by that company. The NHS should not be left to pick up the bill.’

CQC rating

A Babylon spokesperson said: ‘It was not our decision to delay publication of the Ipsos Mori report – we are looking forward to seeing it as we believe the evidence in it will support the work we are doing.’

Meanwhile, the CQC said its evaluation of GP at Hand would be published 'in due course'.

Last week, Hammersmith MP Andrew Slaughter told parliament he had become ‘increasingly alarmed’ over the growth of GP at Hand and that he had written - with support from ‘a number of colleagues’ - to health and social care committee chair and former GP Dr Sarah Wollaston, ‘asking the committee to undertake an investigation into GP at Hand'.

Speaking at the time, a Babylon spokesperson told GPonline: 'Babylon welcomes scrutiny from any governing group or regulator, as we are proud to demonstrate how we can use our technology to work with the NHS and help it cope with the rising demands and costs that are impacting patient care.'

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