The app GP at Hand is currently destabilising general practice and has been doing so for some time. Yet it now appears that this sorry saga set to worsen after Hammersmith and Fulham CCG (the CCG where the app is registered) has indicated that it is prepared to lift the cap currently preventing GP at Hand from recruiting more than 2,600 patients in the local authority area of Birmingham and Solihull.
The app recently expanded its operations to Birmingham in spite of Birmingham and Solihull CCG protesting the decision and having written to Hammersmith and Fulham CCG to request that the expansion not go ahead – the CCG feared that such an expansion would destabilise local healthcare infrastructure.
Birmingham and Solihull CCGs’ opposition to the expansion led Hammersmith and Fulham CCG to temporarily halt the expansion and refer the matter to NHS England for a final decision. NHS England eventually gave the greenlight for expansion despite an independent investigation into the effects of the app on general practice was ongoing.
Now it can be revealed – via Pulse Magazine – that Hammersmith and Fulham CCG could lift the cap on the number of patients the app can recruit by as early as the 15th of September. Meaning that the app – as it has done in London – could cherry pick potentially thousands of primarily young and healthy patients consequently depleting the funding for local GP surgeries caring for both elderly patients and those with more complex needs.
The app already has a chequered history of placing its host CCG and neighbouring London CCGs under immense financial stress. With it recently being revealed that NSH England will have to bailout Hammersmith and Fulham CCG to the tune of £21.6m for the financial year 2019/20 as a result of the app.
The National Health Action Party has previously made the case – and stands by the case - that GP at Hand is a parasite feeding off an NHS which is in crisis and in the process worsening that crisis. Ultimately what the app really offers is the chance to see a GP more quickly than if one were to be on the waiting list of a traditional practice. Now this is not to deny that there is not a crisis and explosion in the waiting times to see a GP – there is. And what is more there is a clear need for this to be remedied. However, what we also know is that this crisis is a direct result of a decade of Conservative austerity and poor management of the NHS at the hands of a succession of Conservative governments who are doing their utmost to privatise it.
GP at Hand may wish to cite its supposedly world leading AI technology in order to convince its users that it is somehow offering something new – a genuine advance in treatment – as opposed to traditional practices. But in reality, its claims for the supremacy of its technology have already been proven to be a sham. GP at Hand does nothing more than cherry pick patients and, in the process, destabilise and destroy the infrastructure that elderly patients and patients with complex needs rely upon. The app and its owners Babylon Health contribute in no way to public health initiatives which traditional practices have been at the forefront of pushing in order to combat a whole host of illnesses.
Consequently, the National Health Action Party wholly concurs with the British Medical Association’s call for the out-of-area provisions in the GP contract to be scrapped in order to prevent GP at Hand from further abusing general practice.
Ultimately history will judge the Conservative’s harshly for what they have done. And when the current Health Secretary is appearing in advertorials promoting GP at Hand and paid for Babylon Health – the company which owns the app – people will be able to see just how calculated a process of privatisation this has been.