The NHA Party welcomes news today that the roll-out of a mobile app offering privatised GP care to NHS patients has been paused, pending proper investigation of the effects on patient safety and quality of care. The NHA Party previously voiced concerns over the actual value of mobile apps from Babylon Healthcare, given their track record of excluding patients with chronic conditions in favour of cherry-picking the worried well.
Babylon had been selling their latest app to NHS England for use by NHS patients in parts of London. The app's website makes it clear that only the fit and well should use the app, with pregnant women, the elderly and those with pre-existing health conditions all deterred. Alarm bells should already be ringing for anyone familiar with the inverse care law. Increased marketisation of healthcare is predictably leading to a system that favours those who are better off, rather than those who need care the most.
And that's not all. As Hammersmith and Fulham CCG note in a recent review (PDF), the mobile app has not been formally evaluated and could result in "unintended consequences". The Conference of England Local Medical Committee’s (LMC) have reportedly passed an emergency motion calling for "clear evidence of patient benefit" before any further roll-out takes place. The NHA Party agrees that whilst technology has a role in healthcare, buying into an unproven project like this may result in funding being diverted away from already overstretched GP services.
NHA co-leader Dr Alex Ashman said: "Technology in the NHS can be a wonderful thing when used correctly. But this mobile app ticks all the wrong boxes: a private provider is looking to focus on the 'easy' patients with a service that the elderly and impoverished are unlikely to be able to access. Until there is peer-reviewed evidence that it solves existing problems rather than creating new ones, any further roll-out of this mobile app should be shelved."
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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.