Hammersmith and Fulham Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) has relaxed restrictions on GP at Hand after a review by NHS England concluded that it met key national safety standards.
Board papers posted by the CCG reveal that previous restrictions stopping individuals with more complex medical needs registering with the online service have been lifted, though the papers note that the requirement to de-register from a local practice to use the service “may not be clinically appropriate” for some patients.
A ban on GP at Hand being expanded to English cities and regions outside of the London region remains in place.
NHS England said it would work with Hammersmith and Fulham CCG to ensure that service continued to meet the needs of patients.
A Babylon GP at Hand spokesperson said: “We are very pleased that there is no longer any ambiguity that Babylon GP at Hand is a service for all who choose it.”
Hammersmith and Fulham CCG had imposed restrictions on the type of patients that could register with GP at Hand while it performed a review into the safety of the online service.
During that time, patients with complex medical physical or mental health conditions, pregnant women and individuals with learning difficulties were barred from registering with the app.
A subsequent review of the platform led by Dr Phil Koczan, clinical safety officer at NHS England, found that the technology used by GP at Hand “meets the standards required by the NHS”.
“The list of conditions where it may not be clinically appropriate for patients with them to register will be removed,” the CCG board papers added.
Despite this, the papers noted that “some people with complex needs may not be appropriate to be registered under this model”.
They also referenced the fact that those who sign up to GP at Hand are required to register with the Fulham-based GP practice that operates the service, switching from their previous GP practice.
“Sometimes it may not be clinically appropriate for patients to register with a practice that is not local to their home,” the CCG board papers say.
Said GP practice – formerly named Dr S Jefferies and Partners – has now been renamed Babylon GP at Hand.
2,500 registrations per month
According to the CCG, registrations for the practice have averaged around 2,500 a month over the past six months.
Just under three-quarters (73%) of those signing up are young adults aged between 20-34. Just over half (53%) of new registrations have been male.
“Babylon GP at Hand is available to everyone who lives or works within 40 minutes of one our clinics. It is a full NHS GP practice, with no restrictions on which groups of patients can register,” a spokesperson said.
“People are entitled to choose their NHS practice, and Babylon GP at hand is committed to providing the full information about our service so that people can make the decision that is right for them and their families.”
The spokesperson also suggested that plans to expand the service to Birmingham remained on the cards.
“The CCG made it clear at its August meeting that GP at hand has done everything required of it in planning the expansion to Birmingham. Unfortunately, the NHS has not been able to put in place the arrangements for screening services that enable this.
“We hope this issue will be resolved swiftly so that safe, effective and extremely convenient primary care can become a reality for anyone across the country who chooses it, and the pressure on NHS urgent and emergency services reduced.”