The cap on the number of patients that can register with GP at Hand in Birmingham could be lifted next month but only if the digital provider can address concerns over screening services.
Babylon’s app was given the green light to expand to Birmingham in June, with a number of restrictions in place which were to be reviewed in eight weeks.
That eight weeks has now passed and Hammersmith and Fulham Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) have agreed to lift an initial cap of 2,600 patients by 15 September.
But the provider must ensure configuration to national screening systems and processes by then, or the cap remains in place. This includes routine tests like cervical screening
Upon being given approval to expand to Birmingham, an Organisation Data Service (ODS) working group was set up, which included membership from Babylon, Hammersmith and Fulham CCG, Birmingham and Solihull CCG, along with NHS Digital and NHS England screening commissioners.
The group was set up to implement the ODS code solution to support the registration of patients in Birmingham. The group also aimed to ensure easier access to local pathways and screening services was supported.
As of 12 August, “good progress” had been made on conformation with national screening services, but the Primary Care Support England (PCSE) system – used to record patient registration and call for screening appointments – had not been embedded, according to the Hammersmith and Fulham primary care commissioning committee board papers.
The PCSE system must be in place for the cap on patient registrations to be lifted by 15 September, the papers said.
Babylon will still be restricted to registrations within the Birmingham and Solihull catchment area once the cap is lifted.
Responding to the decision, Paul Bate, managing director of NHS Services for Babylon, said: “We welcome the addition of the new Organisation Data Service (ODS) code, which will help embed Babylon GP at Hand within the local system and pathways and are pleased that Primary Care Support England (PCSE) and commissioners are working to ensure it will be available in the very near future.”
The primary care committee initially rejected Babylon’s move to expand to Birmingham, put forward in June 2018, with access to local and national screening programmes being a point of concern.
At the time Paul Jennings of Birmingham and Solihull CCG wrote to “formally object” to the roll-out on the “grounds of clinical safety”. The CCG would not confirm their position now, only saying the local NHS is “working hard to make accessing services more convenient and responsive for everyone”.
NHS England also objected to the application, but reneged in February 2019 after areas of concern were “resolved”.
The recently published independent Ipsos Mori review into GP at Hand also cited concerns with access to screening programmes, noting patients may be “less likely” to attend screening appointments.
The evaluation was “not able to fully address” whether the service is affordable or sustainable.
Hammersmith and Fulham CCG have both been contacted for a comment.