• Babylon GP at Hand officially announces launch of Birmingham clinic 
  • Digital healthcare provider plans on opening more clinics in the city “soon”
  • Restrictions will be placed on new service for the first three months, including list size and geographical area

Controversial digital GP practice Babylon GP at Hand has officially launched a clinic in Birmingham, offering services in the city from tomorrow. 

This afternoon the primary care commissioning committee of Hammersmith and Fulham CCG backed a series of restrictions for the new service, including the size of its geographical area and the number of patients who can initially sign up.

Now Babylon Health has officially announced the launch of the new clinic at Badger House, Birmingham, along with plans to open more clinics in the city and surrounding area “soon”.

During the first three months only people who live or work within the Birmingham City Council or Solihull Metropolitan Borough Council boundaries will be able to use the service.

The size of the patient list will initally be restricted to 2,600 patients as Babylon works “with the local NHS authorities to carefully roll out the service”.

However, the list size and geographical area are expected to be reassessed eight weeks after the launch of the practice – which could potentially see the restrictions lifted.

Babylon will also be required to establish a “robust” screening service within three months. This follows NHS England’s earlier objections to the expansion, after concerns were raised over GP at hand integrating with local screening and immunisation services.

Patients signed up to the Birmingham practice will be offered NHS GP appointments “any time of day or year through their phone, tablet or computer”. They will also be able to have face-to-face appointments Monday to Friday from 8am to 6.30pm.

Babylon’s UK medical director Matthew Noble said: “Many people have been used to waiting two or more weeks for a GP appointment.

“Babylon GP at Hand is loved by patients as they can often see a GP within 30 minutes, it’s valued by GPs who can enjoy flexible working, it helps reduce visits to A&E and it doesn’t cost the NHS a penny more, in fact it can save the NHS money.

“The practice is open to everyone - for those with more complex conditions who really struggle with everyday living, we have a care coordination team that has frequent contact to help them manage.”

NHS service GP at Hand is a practice based in Fulham, but is effectively run by digital primary care company Babylon Health, as well as GP partners.

It offers patients across the Hammersmith and Fulham CCG area, and further afield, digital primary care services, including video consultations.

Since November 2017 the patient list has grown from around 4,000 to more than 50,000 – the majority of which live outside the Hammersmith and Fulham area.

The growth of GP at Hand has had “significant financial implications” for the CCG and has been criticised by GPs for destabilising the NHS primary care model. 

Birmingham and Solihull CCG previously objected to the expansion of GP at Hand into the city, raising concerns about fragmentation of care and patient safety.

However, the CCG’s chief executive, Paul Jennings, later told the HSJ the expansion had probably been “inevitable” and he welcomed more digital options for people in the city.