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Samsung phones to come with Babylon’s GP app pre-installed

Millions of people will see Babylon’s GP app pre-installed on their mobile phones going forward, after the private GP company announced a deal with tech-giant Samsung.

Babylon, which also offers NHS-funded service ‘GP at Hand’ to patients across London, launched the ‘Ask an Expert’ function within the Samsung Health app as of yesterday.

The function allows users to check their symptoms and book unlimited video appointments with a Babylon GP at a cost of £50 per year, or £25 for a one-off consultation.

Users can also order and manage prescriptions via the app, which is pre-installed on all compatible Samsung mobile devices.

Babylon founder and chief executive officer Dr Ali Parsa said: ‘It’s very exciting to know that millions of Samsung users will soon be able to better manage their health using Babylon’s services as we deliver personal health assessments and treatment advice via their Samsung Galaxy devices.’

Samsung UK’s head of technology and services Kyle Brown said: ‘Now our customers will be able to look after their health from wherever they are – whether it’s checking a symptom or talking to a doctor – all within a few simple taps.’

BMA GP Committee chair Dr Richard Vautrey said: ‘As GPs face unmanageable workloads in the face of rising demand and chronic underfunding, waiting times for appointments are getting longer and patients are understandably frustrated.

‘It is this situation in an NHS at breaking point that provides growing opportunities for private providers, who are likely to cherry-pick healthier patients at the expense of those with more care needs.’

And he argued that apps such as this were ‘no replacement’ for traditional general practice.

He said: ‘While apps such as this – and similar services available on the NHS – can provide access to a doctor via video, they are no replacement for the unparalleled, free at the point of access registered list-based system that has underpinned general practice for the last 70 years. The benefits of seeing the same practice team, embedded within the community, and offering continued person-based care cannot be disputed.

‘As general practice evolves for the 21st century, technology has much to offer for both doctors and patients, but it is NHS England and CCGs that are responsible for IT provision and they need to step up their support for practices so that they can embrace new ways of working.’

The news comes as Babylon now has 200 GPs on its roster, working across its private and NHS services, remotely or from its London headquarters.

These tend to a growing number of users, including half a million using its private GP services and 26,500 registered with its NHS-funded GP at Hand app.

GP leaders have expressed significant concern about the NHS app, which is as yet only available to patients across London, arguing the service ‘cherry-picks’ fit, young and healthy patients. Claims that GP at Hand has refuted.