This site is intended for health professionals only

At the heart of general practice since 1960

pul jul aug2020 cover 80x101px
Read the latest issue online

Independents' Day

Babylon app ‘takes pressure off’ GPs to help all patients, says health secretary

GP at Hand improves access to services for patients, even if they don’t use the app because it is ‘taking pressure off the NHS’, the health secretary has said.

Speaking at Babylon’s headquarters in London yesterday, health secretary Matt Hancock said the video consultation company’s NHS service ‘can help to remove’ the ‘increasing demand in the NHS’.

He also clarified comments he made yesterday in which he called for GP at Hand to be ‘available to all’.

He said he wants the virtual GP service to expand ‘so that loads of companies can do what Babylon is doing’.

This comes after the Department of Health and Social Care confirmed to Pulse that that Mr Hancock is endorsing the national roll out of the GP at Hand app.

In an interview with The Telegraph, Mr Hancock said the GP at Hand service, which has signed up over 44,000 patients since its launch in November, ‘is revolutionary’.

He said: ‘I want to see GP at Hand available to all, not based on their postcode.’

However, he later said at Babylon's headquarters: ‘I care about helping GP at Hand to expand not because I want to help Babylon but because I want the rules to be in place and the system to work so that loads of companies can come and do what Babylon are doing. I want to help your competitors even before they're starting.

He added that although GP at Hand ‘doesn't necessarily work for all patients’, he said: ‘It works for patients who don't use it too, by taking pressure off the NHS.’

Mr Hancock said: ‘By taking pressure off the NHS it can remove and help to remove one of the biggest challenges we face which is the increasing demand in the NHS so it can help with clinicians. 

‘But it does not replace the need for GPs - it augments the need for human GPs. It helps to deliver ultimately a better service.’

Mr Hancock has previously said he is a patient of Babylon’s GP at Hand app, which promises an online consultation with an NHS GP within hours.

His speech followed Babylon’s pledge to spend £75m developing artificial intelligence that will help GPs diagnose and manage chronic conditions.

BMA GP Committee chair Dr Richard Vautrey said most GPs ‘would like to offer these appointments to their own patients … but funding, resources and training need to be made available to make this happen’.

He said GPs face ‘issues of ethics, confidentiality and accountability that must seriously be considered before systems are put in place’.

Dr Vautrey added: ‘Patients don’t want their local GP practice replaced by a remote anonymous call centre.’ 

The BMA has already called for 'online access [to be] made available to all practices on an equal basis' negating the need for NHS England to overhaul core funding allocations as a result of 'digital-first' GP practices.

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.

Related images

  • p6 wt9 w

Readers' comments (44)

  • Alan, you can't have a system funded out of taxation and NOT political, as it is the Treasury i.e the government that determines how much from the Treasury goes to healthcare. Your only choices are public v private, state v individual responsibility via insurance/co-payments/etc. And we all know, the person who most efficiently spends money, is the person who spends their own. Plus the oft-mentioned concept of increased bureaucracy means less productivity. Therefore, a minimum level of cover should be provided for the bare necessitites i.e emergency treatments, maybe primary care or a part of it. Go look at Singapore's healthcare system

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • AlanAlmond

    Christopher Ho. There are degrees of political. Life is not binary. It has not always been this way . Yes there will always be some politics, there has to be in a democracy with a tax funded system. It’s a question of degree, trust and understanding, it always has been.

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • I never meant my options to be mutually exclusive, Alan, I did mention a minimum level of cover for the bare necessities. Therefore, because it has to be political to some degree, you go with the party that wants minimal state intervention.

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • Does it? Is there any real evidence for that (preferably not from those profiting from it- thats called "Bias"). If you're well enough/socially advanced enough to use an app there is a 99% chance there is nothing wrong with you. Customer satisfaction is not, I REPEAT NOT, a good marker of the cost effectiveness. If you are too stupid to realise this, you shouldn't be health secretary!

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • If he means that it will be a stand alone service in addition to GMS - that is fine - although a potential waste of money. If it is instead of GMS then primary care will collapse within months unless there is a move away from capitation payments. Surely there must be some MP's who have long term conditions which require the occasional laying on of hands? They must empathise with the gravity of this situation surely? Even Mrs May must occasionally need her injection sites and pulses checking from time to time? Most of my consultations require an examination of some sort.

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • Babylon just another lane on the motorway to fill with jugganauts heading toward the primary care rabbits.This will increase demand not reduce or control it.Supply and demand another basic principal Mr Handjob will have to work on with his crayons.

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • We all wished Hunt would go. Beware what you wish for! This guy is a cock alright!

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • I have no objection if it is an optional added extra to GMS with proper funding. What we cannot do it absorb it in addition to what we are doing already.
    Could a GP please tell us how to safely manage common conditions eg headache/cough/abdo pain etc with no examination. Maybe it is possible , I am keen to learn.

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • Cobblers

    Chris Ho you espouse a concept of NHS Lite. Discussed on GP-UK 20+ years ago.

    Basics, Emergency and possibly Primary Care. Rest covered by insurance/government/co-payments. One option at least.

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • Vinci Ho

    The simple questions for Roboc**k to answer on the subject of ‘takes pressure off GPs’
    (1) How do you know that you are not increasing (instead of reducing) pressure on GPs by creating more demands?One can debate that there is a similar argument with the launching of NHS111.
    (2) Because of the existence of the loophole in the GP practice funding of registered patients , how do you know you are not taking funding as well as ‘pressure’ off GPs?
    (3) I think he realises he was treading into legal hot-water of conflict of interests by merely saying GP at hand(hence , Babylon) should be rolled out nationally.

    As a health secretary, I am afraid you have a hell lot more to learn about general practice first , Roboc**k

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

View results 10 results per page20 results per page50 results per page

Have your say