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GP practices face funding threat as online service ‘targets’ young people, Unite warns

The traditional GP practice, in place since the NHS’ inception in 1948, is under serious financial threat from a new online service that is draining funding from surgeries, Unite, the country’s largest union, has warned. 

Doctors in Unite (DiU) said that the online NHS GP at Hand service, powered by private digital health provider Babylon, is signing up predominately young people – and putting the future care of vulnerable groups at risk.

When patients register with GP at Hand, currently operating just in London, they are ‘de-registered’ from their own surgery with funding being removed from that practice.

DiU chair Dr David Wrigley said: “Losing registration fees for younger, fitter patients who join GP at Hand threatens the model of general practice relied on by so many patients, since the NHS was formed 70 years ago.

“The scheme is hoovering up the younger, healthier patients and restricts access to those who are pregnant, frail, terminally ill or suffering from multiple health problems. There appears to be an element of cherry picking operating here, which, if true, is to be deplored.

“In practice, 70 per cent of all patients are reasonably well. Their funding helps surgeries care for the 30 per cent who are sick. It’s a system that works, because it’s fair. We will eventually end up in the 30 per cent - and that’s why we are calling on health and social care secretary Jeremy Hunt to scrap this flawed and misguided model.”

It is understood that since GP at Hand launched in London in November 2017 about 26,000 patients have registered, most of them being between the ages of 20 and 39.

Dr Wrigley added: “Practices in the capital have seen their list sizes fall for the first time in years due to those patients registering with GP at Hand.

“There is, no doubt, that GP at Hand will financially destabilise many practices robbing them of the vital risk pooling and cross subsidy which enables them to provide good care to their more complex and unwell patients.

“GP at Hand targets the most profitable patients – those who are younger and healthier and don’t need extensive care from their GP.

“Jeremy Hunt has said that general practice is the ‘Jewel in the Crown’ of the NHS. If he truly believes this, he will acknowledge that the GP at Hand model threatens the very survival of NHS general practice.

“GP at Hand has made it clear it wishes to roll out this model of care across the country, so this scheme will threaten general practice across England.

“General practice is the cornerstone of the NHS which has provided excellent care with its other community partners for decades.”

Notes to editors:

The open letter to Jeremy Hunt can be accessed via  http://goo.gl/k6cp36

GP at Hand does not operate in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

For more information please contact Unite senior communications officer Shaun Noble on 020 3371 2060 or 07768 693940. Unite press office is on:  020 3371 2065

Email: shaun.noble@unitetheunion.org 

Original article link: http://www.unitetheunion.org/news/gp-practices-face-funding-threat/

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