In addition, a number of doctors have objected to the plans, claiming that the private firm will be able to “cherry pick” healthy patients – and the NHS funds attached to each person – while leaving complex cases to traditional GPs.
Now NHS England have given the green light to plans which mean patients can sign up for a virtual GP despite living more than 100 miles away from the practice which registers them.
The U-turn was revealed yesterday at a meeting of Hammersmith and Fulham Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) – the area where GP at Hand is based.
CCG officials had objected to the plan, referring it to NHS England, who until now had put the expansion on hold.
On Tuesday NHS England said it had given the plans the go-ahead, after finding a way to ensure all patients are offered screening and immunisation locally.
NHS England said every patient in England will have the option of online and video consultations from next year. It is also examining the funding systems to ensure fair funding for practices taking on patients from outside their area.
A spokesman for Babylon’s GP at Hand welcomed the decision. He said: “The NHS Long Term Plan and GP contract framework set the vision for digital-first primary care and we look forward to making this a reality, in Birmingham and across the country.”