Babylon GP at Hand

7 November 2017

In November 2017, private health service provider Babylon Health launched GP at Hand for NHS patients in London.

In the context of rising smartphone ownership (particularly from 2010 onwards), national policy had been supportive of using new digital technologies to tackle increasing pressure on primary care services in England. However, NHS general practices had not widely used alternatives to face-to-face consultations.

GP at Hand represented a new model of digital-first primary care aiming to enable its patients to use the smartphone application to get video consultations with NHS GPs in a much shorter timeframe compared to standard waits. The service required patients to switch their NHS GP registration from their usual GP practice to the GP at Hand Partnership. Face-to-face consultations were available at locations in central and west London.

In January 2019, the NHS Long Term Plan promised that ‘digital-first’ primary care would be available to all patients by 2023/24. The plan did not refer explicitly to GP at Hand, but stated that patients would be able to choose between their current practice and new digital GP providers.

Independent evaluation

Ipsos Mori published its independent evaluation of Babylon GP at Hand in May 2019 found that patients and GPs using GP at Hand reported overall good experiences with the application. However, the report suggested that the patients registered with the service included a lower proportion of older people and people with more complex health needs than the general population.

Responding to the evaluation, the Health Foundation raised concerns about the wider system applicability of the model. These concerns included continuity of care, access to face-to-face appointments, and access implications of using digital applications (dependent on a person’s internet and digital skills).

Source(s)

Ipsos Mori, York Health Economics Consortium, Salisbury C.
Evaluation of Babylon GP at hand.
NHS Hammersmith and Fulham CCG and NHS England; 2019.

Babylon GP at Hand.
A convenient way for you to access NHS healthcare [webpage].
Babylon; 2019.

NHS England.
The NHS Long term plan.
NHS England; 2019.

Clarke G, Keith J, Steventon A.
The current Babylon GP at Hand model will not work for everyone.
Health Foundation; 2019.