Two Midlands hospitals end partnerships with Babylon

Two NHS trusts have prematurely severed their relationships with digital health provider, Babylon.

NHS sign outside a building
(Photo: Getty Images)

The Royal Wolverhampton NHS Trust announced a 10-year deal with Babylon, the company behind the controversial GP at Hand video service, in January 2020 to deliver the  'world's first integrated digital health system' to 300,000 patients across the region.

At the time Babylon said the deal would see patients have access to video consultations with both GPs and hospital doctors along with real-time disease monitoring tools through an app.

However, just two years into the contract Babylon has confirmed the partnership has come to an end.

Meanwhile, University Hospital Birmingham NHS Foundation Trust has also said that its partnership with Babylon, which began in 2018, is to end later this year. A spokesperson for the trust, said ‘The trust served notice on the contract with Babylon Health in July and this collaboration will end in October.'

According to Babylon the decision to end its partnership with the Royal Wolverhampton NHS Trust was a mutual one. A spokesperson for the company said: 'Royal Wolverhampton Trust and Babylon have made a mutual decision to end our partnership, as it is not economically viable for Babylon in the current climate.'

A spokesperson for the Royal Wolverhampton NHS Trust said it was working closely with Babylon to safely and effectively terminate the partnership.

‘Currently there is no set date for the contract to end, but it is likely to be in the autumn,’ they added.

Babylon services

Both hospital trusts made use of Babylon's Symptom Checker, which the company said it had decided to decommission this year. It said that because the NHS had a long-term commitment to use NHS 111 as a first port of call for all urgent and emergency needs Babylon would no longer provide its Symptom Checker service to the NHS.

Babylon's spokesperson said: 'In 2021, we jointly launched a digital-first primary care service to Royal Wolverhampton Trust's primary care population, where we have registered over 7,000 patients and achieved a patient satisfaction score of 4.3 stars out of 5.’ 

They added: 'Babylon will continue to fulfil its mission to provide affordable, high quality, accessible care, including to over 380,000 patients in the UK. As a priority, we will work to ensure the safe and smooth transition of patients from the Babylon platform onto alternative providers.’

The severing of Babylon’s partnerships with the two trusts comes after accounts cast doubts over the finances behind the company.

Babylon Healthcare, the company behind GP at Hand, needs continuing injections of cash from parent company Babylon Holdings.

However, annual accounts for Babylon Healthcare published this month reveal doubts about whether Babylon Holdings is a going concern - and said there was 'no certainty' that it 'will be able to provide the financial support which [Babylon Healthcare's] forecasts indicate is required'.

Last year GP at Hand became the first NHS GP service to register more than 100,000 patients.

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