The NHS could learn from the Babylon GP at Hand model to ease the recruitment crisis, according to the official evaluation into the online service provider.
The report, conducted by Ipsos Mori and published on Thursday last week (May 23), said that there are ‘learnings for policy makers and the profession as a whole’ with regards to the digital-first model that attracts GPs to work for GP at Hand.
From the evidence, Ipsos Mori evaluated that the model could have ‘positive impact’ on the recruitment and retention of GPs who wouldn’t remain in general practice otherwise.
However, the report questioned that if the Babylon model was rolled out more widely, then the recruitment of GPs in so-called ‘traditional’ practices could become more difficult.
The report states: ‘Regardless of whether the BGPaH model is mainstreamed, there are learnings for policy makers and the profession as a whole about the features that are attracting GPs to work for BGPaHand that keep them satisfied with their work. It may be useful to consider if and how these features can be replicated more widely in conventional general practices.’
It continued: ‘The evidence collected suggests that the digital-first model provided by BGPaH could have a positive impact on the recruitment and retention of a group of GPs who may not remain in or enter into general practice otherwise.’
Yet there were concerns the model would have an effect on ‘traditional general practice’.
It summarised: ‘Stakeholders questioned whether that could also make recruiting and retaining GPs in mainstream ‘traditional’ practices (or the workforce as a whole) more challenging, if this was rolled out more widely.’
While the evaluation acknowledged the current workforce crisis in the NHS, it showed findings of the Babylon model offering a ‘more attractive’ workplace for some GPs.
It said: ‘The evidence collected for the evaluation shows that BGPaH, like other similar models of “digital-first” primary care, provides an attractive working environment for some GPs by giving them greater flexibility around how and where they deliver care. ‘
GPs interviewed for the report stated their ‘varied workload’ was a key factor in their job satisfaction. Furthermore, the work climate, autonomy and flexibility were all factors told to evaluators by GPs.
Industry leaders have stated their concern about the digital-first model with regards to its recent application to become a single primary care network.
Londonwide LMC chief executive Dr Michelle Drage said the fact that almost one in four of patients de-register from the service ‘shows how much the promises match the reality.’
She added: ‘The fact that 28% of patients de-register from this service within two months of joining shows how much the promises match the reality.
‘The Independent Evaluation also notes that the GP at Hand model ‘presents a challenge for primary care networks if they are defined geographically’, we hope this point is taken onboard by those making decision on the future of PCNs in London.
‘The fact that GP at Hand’s patients are healthier than the average population and fall into social categories defined as ‘city sophisticates’ and ‘career climbers’, once again raises questions about the priorities of this service, at a time when the health needs of London’s most deprived communities are rapidly growing.
‘We will offer further comments once we have had time to consider the full report.’
Babylon’s Medical Director of clinical services Dr Matthew Noble said: ‘This independent report shows that GP at Hand is loved by all types of patients as they can now access a GP when they need to.
‘I’m particularly pleased that the report has shown how our GPs enjoy their work, aren’t becoming burned out and how our digital-first approach may even be a way of encouraging GPs to stay in the profession and to help recruit more doctors into general practice.’
Earlier this week, Hammersmith and Fulham CCG said it could not confirm its approval of Babylon’s network application due to the geographical circumstances of the digital-first model.
The report also found that global sum ‘may not work well’ for the GP at Hand model.
This story was first published by our sister publication Pulse.