• Royal Wolverhampton Trust signs deal with Babylon to use its covid-19 care assistant app
  • 300,000 people in Wolverhampton will have access to the digital provider’s care assistant 

Royal Wolverhampton Trust has become the first provider to sign a deal with Babylon Health for citywide coverage of a new covid-19 app, HSJ has learned.

Digital health provider Babylon announced earlier this month the creation of a “covid-19 care assistant” app, which provides patients with digital triage, a live chat service, a symptom tracker and video consultation.

RWT’s deal covers around 300,000 patients registered to a Wolverhampton GP, and all trust staff regardless of where they live. Earlier this year, RWT announced a 10-year deal with Babylon to develop a “digital-first integrated care” model.

The new covid-19 app will be made available to staff today and will then be rolled out to the general public next week.

Babylon told HSJ patients can register for the service and use the app to check their symptoms. Those with medium severity symptoms will be offered a live chat with a Babylon staff member or clinician.

Following this, patients can access the app during self-isolation. Those patients who need video appointments will have one with a clinician from Royal Wolverhampton Trust.

RWT has been one of the worst hit trusts in terms of patient deaths from covid-19, reporting more than 60 deaths so far

The total value of the contract was not shared. However, HSJ understands that, under the contract terms, Babylon will not require payment for services until a later date.

Babylon has told HSJ this agreement was made because the trust is an NHS organisation and there is yet to be clarification on how the additional costs of covid-19 to NHS trusts will be funded.

HSJ understands the private provider is also currently in talks with other NHS trusts over the care assistant, including the West Midlands Ambulance Service University Foundation Trust.

David Loughton, chief executive at RWT, said the app will provide “additional support to staff and patients and a practical way to relieve pressure from the system”.

Sultan Mahmud, director of innovation, integration and research for RWT who led on the deal, told HSJ: “All this is rooted in having a digital overlay for services and so, as we approach the peak, any help to support patients and staff, extra information, whether it is on an interactive basis or otherwise, is a good thing.

“We are all working extremely hard to tackle covid-19, but in everything you’ve got to find some positive and I think the positive in this is that this is an innovation and using the best of technology to help [the] situation and we need to learn from the experience of this and move at pace across the NHS.”

Umang Patel, clinical director for Babylon, said: “What’s most important, not least because Wolverhampton were so badly hit with covid from so early on, was making sure they were able to have as many tools as possible delivering the right information to people…

“Covid-19 shows us it doesn’t matter how good your telemedicine is, you need to link that in with the hospital service because, of course, when people get sick, they get sick and require hospital medicine.”

This story was updated to ammend the terms of Babylon’s payment agreement with RWT.