Babylon Health’s GP at Hand causes £21.6m funding gap

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Babylon Health’s AI-powered healthcare service GP at Hand has caused a funding gap in excess of £21 million just as further cuts are being made.

Health secretary Matt Hancock has championed GP at Hand since 2017. The digital service has come into question for providing unsafe recommendations, and for taking money away from surgeries already struggling with cuts.

The service has operated through the Hammersmith and Fulham Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) across London. Due to the popularity of the app, the CCG has ended up with a £21.6m funding gap while it plans £10m of additional cuts.

According to the CCG, it’s working on a “solution to the financial impact” of GP at Hand and expects reimbursement from NHS England. The CCG promises that patients in Hammersmith and Fulham will “not be disadvantaged” by the funding gap.

The Hammersmith and Fulham CCG’s total deficit swelled to £37m this year. Cuts are planned in a wide range of areas including overnight urgent care centres, out of hours GP services, radiology, cardiology, gynaecology, mental health services, dementia support, rehabilitation, and more.

Babylon said: “We fully expect Babylon GP at Hand to reduce the costs on the overall NHS,” adding the NHS’s financial structure is “not designed to meet the needs of people who choose digital-first care”.

GP at Hand has appealed primarily to the younger generation who are used to digital services. Babylon Health has, in the past, been criticised for picking healthier patients and leaving more complicated cases to surgeries. Due to each surgery being funded on a per patient basis, this means GPs are being left with less overall funding to cover patients which use their services more.

Ipsos Mori was commissioned by the NHS last year to assess the impact of Babylon Health’s partnership with the NHS. On Thursday, the research group published its findings and said there were “questions about the financial impact of the service on the wider health system”.

AI-powered healthcare solutions will one day fulfil their exciting promise, but rushing to market only risks patients’ wellbeing.

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