The must-read stories and debate in health policy and leadership


The new health and social care secretary, Matt Hancock, has rarely delivered a speech without praising Babylon Health.

The digital health company making waves in the NHS with its GP at Hand service got a mention in Mr Hancock’s first speech in July, where he described the service as “brilliant” for him as a patient.

At the Health and Care Innovation Expo in Manchester last week, Mr Hancock again mentioned the company (along with several others), as among the “world’s best health tech companies”.

And finally, on Thursday night, Mr Hancock made an appearance at the company’s London office, following on from founder Ali Parsa’s announcement that Babylon would be investing £100m in tackling chronic conditions.

Mr Hancock told Babylon employees that GP at Hand was good for NHS patients, clinicians and relieved pressure on other NHS services.

An independent NHS evaluation is still underway, its conclusion not expected until early next year, to determine whether GP at Hand is indeed good for patients, clinicians, and relieving pressure on other NHS services.

But Mr Hancock still told The Telegraph on Thursday morning that he wanted GP at Hand available to all NHS patients “not based on their postcode”.

At Babylon HQ he expanded on this, stating that by changing NHS rules to allow GP at Hand to expand he was also creating a platform for its competitors.

“So loads of companies can come do what Babylon are doing,” he said.

Mental Health Investment Standard not standard

Once again it appears that some clinical commissioning groups are struggling to meet national funding commitments for mental health.

According to NHS England’s latest mental health dashboard, 24 CCGs reduced mental health spending from 2016-17 to 2017-18.

It is more than double the ten CCGs which reduced mental health spending from 2015-16 to 2016-17, according to the quarter four dashboard for the previous year.

However, the fact more CCGs are reducing their mental health spending is part of a very positive national picture.

It is undeniable that the funding is moving in the right direction – with CCG mental health spending rising from £9.7bn to £10.1bn from 2016-17 to 2017-18.

The number of CCGs meeting the mental health investment standard of increasing spending in line with programme allocation growth has also gone up from 85 to 90 per cent.

But as NHS England’s national mental health director told commissioning leaders earlier this year, nine in ten CCGs meeting the national standard is “not enough”.

The pressure to increase spending must be maintained if Ms Murdoch’s promise to MPs in July of every CCG hitting the target in 2018-19 is going to be met.

With the standard now mandated in the planning guidance for 2018-19, it places even more emphasis on CCGs to keep increasing investment in mental health.

But if CCGs continue to miss the target then it will come down to Ms Murdoch and her national team to do more than just say it is not an “optional extra”, but a national mandate.