The RCGP chair has called on the health secretary to clarify his position on GP at Hand after he endorsed the app for a national roll out earlier this month.
In a letter to Matt Hancock, Professor Helen Stokes-Lampard expressed concern that ‘a further roll out of GP at Hand… will adversely impact on traditional surgeries’, which could be left ‘a disproportionate number of patients with multiple, long-term conditions’.
This comes after Mr Hancock said he wants ‘to see GP at Hand available to all, not based on their postcode’, adding that GP at Hand will improve access for patients, even if they don’t use the app because it is ‘taking pressure off the NHS’.
However, Professor Stokes-Lampard said: ‘While it may appear as if GP at Hand has a potential role alleviating some pressures on NHS general practice, and whilst we welcome the fact that some patients may receive quicker access to services, we have serious concerns about the unintended impact on wider primary care.’
She said that the app has the potential to create a ‘two-tier’ primary care service ‘where healthier patients… can get an online appointment quickly and conveniently whilst those with the greatest clinical need… find it more difficult to access timely care’.
Professor Stokes-Lampard added that until there is ‘a massive and rapid overhaul of the funding model for general practice… GP at Hand should not be rolled out further in the NHS’.
NHS England is currently reviewing the general practice funding model to accommodate digital first practices, but the BMA has already said the proposals are ‘not appropriate’.
RCGP chair Professor Helen Stokes-Lampard has previously said the NHS has ‘a lot to learn’ from Babylon’s ‘phenomenal’ GP at Hand app, which she said was ‘disrupting’ general practice.
A GP at hand spokesperson said:‘The RCGP is absolutely right to highlight that practices all too often do not have enough GPs to cope with the needs of patients. GPs are burning out, and patients cannot get the timely, safe care they need. That’s precisely why technology-enabled primary care is the solution and not the problem.
‘Babylon is making its technology and GPs available to any NHS practice up and down the country. The debate should be whether it is safe or effective to carry out NHS care without using the latest technology.’
Additional reporting by Valeria Fiore