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Babylon ‘cautious’ to expand UK GP services amid cash losses

Babylon ‘cautious’ to expand UK GP services amid cash losses

Babylon needs to be ‘super careful’ about expanding its UK GP services as it loses money on every patient, its CEO has said.

Babylon CEO Dr Ali Parsa made the comments last week as part of its new ‘Ask The CEO’ series.

Asked by an attendee if there are any plans for the company to expand its UK GP services, Dr Parsa said Babylon is ‘overwhelmed with demand’ for GP services in the UK.

He said this is because of ‘structural challenges’ in the UK, ‘whereby fundamentally the UK Government pays you to look after people in our [average] age cohort two to three times a year’.

He added: ‘In reality, people use us six to seven times a year and we actually lose money on every member that comes in. We used to lose a lot of money, we lose a little money now.

‘We manage to get paid only for on average two visits, [but] deliver six visits and continuous involvement with non-doctors and our apps and everything, and do so almost with zero wait 24/7.’

He explained that as a result, ‘we need to be, in today’s environment, super careful about the speed with which we grow that book. So we’re going to be cautious about the growth of that book, being very frank’.

A spokesperson for Babylon declined to comment further.

This month, Babylon GP at Hand opened two new clinics in London, in response to a rise in demand for face-to-face consultations.

And Babylon’s NHS arm GP at Hand became the first practice in England to register more than 100,000 patients on a single list in August.

But Babylon said in October that it required ‘significant cash’ ahead of its impending listing on the US stock exchange.

Concerns have previously been raised around the safety of Babylon’s digital GP offer, including by a doctor who was labelled a ‘troll’ by Babylon after he tested its AI app and reported the results on social media.

The provider has been accused by critics of ‘cherry-picking’ younger, healthier patients, leaving other practices to care for patients with greater needs. 

GP at Hand controversially enjoyed the endorsement of then-health secretary Matt Hancock when it launched in 2018.

Meanwhile, Pulse revealed in June 2021 that NHSX and NHS England were considering the viability of a wider rollout of an artificial intelligence triage model based on that used by Babylon.

READERS' COMMENTS [2]

Long Gone 31 May, 2022 3:59 pm

Well you could never have seen THAT coming. A corporate discovers that even with world beating AI and enormous economies of scale, you still can’t turn a profit delivering primary care in this country on what WE (via our government) are willing to pay for it in taxes.
That’s a shocker. I’m gobsmacked. Pick me up, I’m bowled over.
Make that boiled over.

Malcolm Kendrick 4 June, 2022 11:57 am

I must admt that I thought these on-line providers of GP services would pick off the profitable patients, leaving the rest of GP-land drowing in elderly patietns with multi-morbidity. So, traditional GP practices would become untenable and impode first. I am slightly suprised to see that Babylon et al have found it impossible to make money.

I supopse it makes the oft repeated fears that private providers are coming in to take over the NHS seem a distant possibiltiy. I have always thought that the fees that HM Govt would be willing to pay would make it impossibel to work – financially.