Dr Chris Mimnagh: Private healthcare innovation could force the NHS to modernise

A private service that offers daytime access to GPs is the kind of 'disruptive innovation' that could force the NHS to speed up modernisation, argues Dr Chris Mimnagh.

There's a great story in a national newspaper about GPs being 'offered' thousands of pounds to treat patients via an app. It's about Babylon, a service that I work for. It's hard work - 10-minute video consults, a new skill, a new challenge, a new field.

It's something the NHS could have done, but chose not to do. Instead we have 111 a service which offers you a 20% chance of speaking to a clinician, according to NHS England's deputy medical director.

Babylon costs money to access and I was surprised to find NHS practices using Babylon to deliver services. I was even more surprised to find a significant number of doctors and nurses using the service.

However, on reflection I should not be surprised, it's an accessible service and GPs struggle to get access to services which exactly match their own working day.

So why the ire at a headline grabbing headline?

Babylon is no more privatisation of the NHS than use of an out-of-hours agency during in-hours times.

It is, however, a new service - one which the NHS needs to adapt to use as part of the rich tapestry of health services we currently offer to our patients.

If the NHS had the agility and will to experiment with teleconsultations it too could be offering a service at scale rather than just two struggling practices. The NHS I suspect has missed the innovation boat, too straitjacketed by finance and attitude.

Babylon is - in the language of business - a disruptive innovation, one that will force change across the landscape. As for being 'offered' money? Nope - I earn it.

  • Dr Chris Mimnagh is a GP in Liverpool and co-director of clinical strategy at the NHS partnership organisation Liverpool Health Partners

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