Online GP provider Babylon has said it has no plans to pull out of providing care to its 100,000 NHS patients in London, despite wider financial woes.
Last month, The Telegraph alleged that Babylon had just ‘three months worth of cash in the bank’.
However, when asked by Pulse what it means for its NHS GP offering, Babylon suggested its financial situation has been inaccurately reported and claimed to be ‘fully committed’ to its London UK base.
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 last year. However, its Birmingham operation was forced to close in November as part of a strategy of ‘winding down’ unprofitable NHS contracts.
Last month, Pulse exclusively revealed that Babylon had indefinitely suspended out-of-area patient registrations for GP at Hand, telling prospective patients they must now live in Central Fulham.
Last year, CEO Dr Ali Parsa has said the company needed to be ‘super careful’ about expanding its UK GP services as it loses money on every patient, with accounts revealing the NHS GP at Hand arm was reliant on profits from the private side of the business (see box).
Approached by Pulse about the current situation, a Babylon spokesperson said: ‘We have no plans to close our London clinics and remain fully committed to our work in the UK and with our partners at the NHS. Our list remains open for patients living in-area to register as normal.
‘Babylon’s UK businesses have made material progress towards financial sustainability and already have a profitable cost of care delivery margin.
‘GP at Hand is a core part of those businesses, and Babylon is committed to ensuring that our NHS patients receive high quality care today and on an ongoing basis.’
The spokesperson added that Babylon GP at Hand conducted ‘one million appointments in the UK’ last year, and that while the ‘target wait time for a NHS GP appointment’ is ‘within two weeks’, at Bablyon ‘over 72% of our NHS GP at Hand patients can see a clinician within 24 hours of booking an appointment’.
‘Babylon’s service has shown that it can improve accessibility (patient satisfaction 90%+), quality (clinical outcomes 90%+) and affordability (savings on acute care costs for the NHS 15-35%),’ they added.
GP at Hand currently serves 100,000 patients across London, with clinics in Fulham, Canary Wharf, Wimbledon, Victoria and Euston.
NHS North West London ICB, which hosts Babylon’s NHS GP contract, declined to comment on whether it had plans in place in case the company decided to wind down services.
Upon launching GP at Hand as a mobile GP service, Babylon was accused by critics of ‘cherry-picking’ younger, healthier patients, leaving other practices to care for patients with greater needs. As such, it controversially enjoyed the endorsement of then-health secretary Matt Hancock when it launched in 2018.
Babylon’s financial woes
Babylon Holdings Limited has been in financial difficulty for some time, incurring a loss of $374.5m in 2021, and of $188.0m in 2020.
Accounts filed last year on Companies House showed Babylon Healthcare Services Limited – the arm under which GP at Hand operates – acknowledging that it is ‘reliant on financial support’ from Babylon Holdings Limited.
The accounts said ‘there is no assurance that additional funds are available on acceptable terms’, and that there were ‘material uncertainties (ability to fundraise further capital) related to events or conditions that may cast significant doubt on the group’s ability to continue as a going concern, and therefore to continue realising its assets and discharging its liabilities in the normal course of business’.
Babylon had also admitted that it required ‘significant cash’ ahead its 2021 listing on the US stock exchange. But last autumn, Babylon Holdings Limited’s shares were selling for less than $1 on the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE), dropping from $0.98 on 8 August to $0.47 on 3 October – far short of the NYSE requirement that companies maintain an average closing share price of at least $1 over 30 consecutive days.
At the time, Babylon told Pulse it was ‘taking active steps and will continue to consider further opportunities to maximize value for shareholders.’
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