Speaking exclusively to Digital Health News, the medical director of GP at Hand has defended the service against accusations it ‘cherry picks’ patients.

Mobasher Butt said it was “astonishing” to see the “traction” of GP at Hand, with recent figures showing an average of 4,000 registrations a month.

However he did admit there have been “challenges”.

The service has met some fierce criticism, with concerns that it ‘cherry picks’ younger, healthier patients, taking resources away from local NHS general practices that offer long-term care to all.

“Some parts of the medical community have put their union hats on and voiced concerns,” acknowledged Butt.

“We feel these are not justified. On the cherry-picking debate, it has been eye-opening to see how many of my peers, especially GPs, do not understand GP funding.

“Doctors are paid six times more for treating an elderly female than a younger male.”

Butt also said he would “not have been keen” to launch a service if he felt it could “exclude groups”.

Another issue which emerged has been patients not realising they are deregistering from their current GP when they sign up for the service.

Butt insisted the company is a “responsible organisation” which is not “trying to pull the wool over people’s eyes”.

He said: “We have done our very best to make it clear.”

Dr Jefferies & Partners in Fulham, south west London, was the first to offer the Babylon-powered GP at Hand service from November 2017.

Papers from Hammersmith and Fulham Clinical Commissioning Group have shown that there are concerns about paying for the service. “List size growth associated with the GP at Hand practice” has not been allocated in the CCG’s funding for 2018/19, Hammersmith and Fulham CCG Primary Care Commissioning Committee was told in March.

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

On the topic of Hammersmith and Fulham CCG having to cough up an extra £10.6 million to continue running the service, Butt said the organisation was working “closely with the CCG”.