A Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) could be facing additional costs of more than £10.6 million in order to continue funding Babylon’s GP at Hand practice.

Dr Jefferies & Partners in Fulham, south-west London, began offering the Babylon-powered service in November 2017.

The free service promises to cut GP waiting times by allowing patients to book appointments and talk to their doctor through their smartphone.

Papers presented to the NHS Hammersmith and Fulham CCG Primary Care Commissioning Committee on 20 March reveal that the number of patients registered with the practice has leaped from 2,500 in April 2017 to 24,651 as of 5 March 2018.

This means the practice has seen an average of 4,000 registrations a month.

This recorded growth prompted the CCG to calculate the additional costs as a result of more patients registering.

The papers reveal that if the current trend of 4,000 patients registering a month continues, the total additional cost to the CCG could surpass £10.6 million.

On the other hand, even if there is no further growth, there will still be additional costs of more than £5.4 million.

The papers also state that the “list size growth associated with the GP at Hand practice” has not been allocated in the CCG’s funding for 2018/19.

This has created “significant cost pressures”, which resulted in the CCG being unable to balance its finances.

A spokeswoman for Hammersmith and Fulham CCG said: “The impact on the CCG is primarily due to the growth of the number of patients registering with the practice, which has increased the CCGs registered list by approximately 10% since April last year.

“As CCG funding is based on the GP registered population at the start of the year, it did not take into account or anticipate the large growth in the numbers of patients the CCG is now responsible for and there is no mechanism currently in place that will automatically increase the CCG allocation in year.”

The papers reveal the CCG has therefore contacted NHS England London and “is exploring options to enable in year adjustments to its allocation” however the spokeswoman told Digital Health News that “there is presently no mechanism in place for a CCG to make in-year changes to its core or primary care allocations”.

A GP at Hand spokesman said: “What has happened is that a different CCG is now paying for patient care. Historically, when patients – who are now with GP at Hand –  were registered at their previous practice, the CCG responsible for that practice would have borne the costs of the NHS care.

“Now the costs fall to Hammersmith & Fulham CCG.”

NHS England recently issued a tender for an independent evaluation GP at Hand after the national body lodged a ‘formal objection’ to a further roll-out of the service.

The £250,000 contract is due to start on 1 June 2018 and end 30 May 2019.