Hackney GPs warn patients against switching to new general practice 'app'
GPs are warning patients in Hackney to think twice before signing up to an app-based service called GP at Hand.
GPs fear the service, powered by digital health provider Babylon, risks creating a ‘second class, low budget GP service’ for patients with the most needs by enticing younger, healthier patients to deregister from their local practice.
GP at Hand is a smartphone app which gives patients the option to video chat with their GP.
The app was launched in 2016 and operates out of a GP practice in Hammersmith.
Local GPs are so worried about the app de-stabilising local practices they sent a text to all their patients explaining their concerns.
The text from the Nightingale Practice explains how GP surgeries are funded and how patients who chose to register with GP at Hand will be deregistered from their local practice, taking funding with them to the new service.
The text points out that, unlike local practices, GP at Hand can refuse to register patients who are pregnant or have a more complex conditions including learning disabilities or mental health needs.
A spokeswoman for the City and Hackney GP Confederation urged City and Hackney patients to stay registered with their local GP surgery.
She said some patients had registered with the app without realising it meant leaving their local practice.
‘We are really worried that City and Hackney patients will move to GP at Hand without realising the full consequences, both for themselves and for their GP surgery. Local GPs are working on improving access all the time.’
Currently only people who live in London zones 1-3 can sign up to use the app.
Plans to expand the service beyond London were halted in January 2018 following a formal objection lodged by NHS England.
Host clinical commissioning group (CCG) NHS Hammersmith and Fulham published a clinical review of the service in November 2017 which found the model was 'novel' and 'innovative'.
The review however expressed concerns that GP at Hand had not yet been formally evaluated and 'may therefore result in unintended consequences'.
GP at Hand say the service could help bring down GP waiting times, but the Royal College of GPs has warned the service risked creating a 'twin-track approach to NHS general practice' by 'cherry picking' the healthiest patients.