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NHA expresses grave concerns over safety of Babylon health app

The NHA Party has today expressed grave concerns over the safety of a mobile healthcare app produced by Babylon Healthcare. This follows news that doctors testing the Babylon app found it was unable to correctly diagnose common and serious conditions such as a heart attack, ectopic pregnancy, meningitis, and acute limb ischaemia. The NHA Party previously welcomed news that  a spin-off app offering privatised GP care to NHS patients had been temporarily shelved due to safety concerns.

According to the Financial Times (paywall), an anonymous doctor has reported Babylon to the regulatory body the MHRA. This follows reports from Twitter user Dr Murphy that the Babylon app had, for instance, diagnosed a urinary tract infection as prostate cancer, a heart attack as a panic attack, and a nosebleed as... erectile dysfunction. Also on Twitter, Dr Selena Singh has shared results from the app in which a woman of childbearing age with a late period and left iliac fossa pain is diagnosed with an inguinal hernia, as opposed to the obvious differential diagnoses of ectopic pregnancy or appendicitis.

NHA co-leader Dr Alex Ashman said: "As we've said before, technology in the NHS can be a wonderful thing when used correctly. But the anecdotal evidence we're hearing regarding the Babylon app suggests it is currently not safe for live use. Until we see independently-verified, peer-reviewed evidence, we have to consider the risk that Babylon Healthcare are allowing their vested interest in the success of their app to come before a rigorous appraisal of its safety."

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Notes:
The National Health Action (NHA) Party was founded in 2012 to oppose the growing marketisation of the NHS.

Dr Ashman is a surgical registrar who joined the NHA in 2012 having seen first hand the effects of marketisation and privatisation on the NHS.

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