Two Midlands NHS trusts have signed a partnership with Babylon Health to use its new Covid-19 care assistant.

University Hospitals Birmingham NHS Foundation Trust and The Royal Wolverhampton NHS Trust are to use the app-based service to help flag patients with potential coronavirus, as well as assist those who have been diagnosed with their medical needs.

The deal means the Covid-19 Care Assistant will be available to 4.2 million people, or 7.5% of England’s population, according to Babylon.

The artificial intelligence (AI) powered tool provides an option to speak to clinicians by video for more severe symptoms, as well as detecting red flags when a patient’s health is deteriorating,

It aims to take pressure off A&Es, GP practices, 111 and the ambulance while hospital doctors in self-isolation will be able to help staff the service when they can’t make it to work.

Prof David Rosser, chief executive at University Hospitals Birmingham NHS Foundation Trust, said: “We are bringing in Babylon’s technology to amplify our clinical teams’ capacity and expertise.

“Our first step was introducing ‘Ask A&E’, a symptom checker that triages our patients, lets them know whether they really need to come to us at hospital, and sends us the information about their symptoms if they do.

The second step is the Covid-19 Care Assistant, which expands our triage to support far more Covid-19 patients than we could before, with reassurance, support and advice throughout their illness. This should have a rapid and profound impact on patients across Birmingham and Solihull, while freeing up our clinicians to focus on the patients who need them most.”

David Loughton, chief executive of The Royal Wolverhampton NHS Trust, added: “The current Covid-19 pandemic is the greatest challenge we have faced since the inception of the NHS.

“One of the greatest opportunities of the 21st century is the potential to safely harness the power of technology revolution to meet the challenges of improving health. I am delighted to announce that RWT, along with Primary Care Networks in the city, have joined with our technology partner Babylon to provide the Covid-19 Care Assistant service.

“A digital-first approach is now an expectation from our patient population and I am delighted that we have responded positively to their needs.”

The Covid-19 Care Assistance was launched in March as a separate section of its core artificial intelligence technology, with users being asked at the beginning of the triage if they are concerned about coronavirus, a spokesperson told Digital Health News.

If they answer yes, they are diverted into the Covid-19 triage, which follows the same criteria of that of NHS 111.

It’s available to all Babylon UK patients and talks are underway for a second wave of partnerships expected to be announced shortly, the company said.

Dr Ali Parsa, chief executive and founder of Babylon, said: “No health system in the world has enough staff in a pandemic situation, but AI and digital advances mean many things that used to take up doctors’ time can now be automated.

“The whole country is in awe of the dedication and bravery of our NHS staff battling on the frontline: our mission is simply to give them more time and space to do their life-saving work.

“Patients can be proud that their local hospitals are working round the clock to give each person the most appropriate care possible according to their need by trailblazing the latest technology. We are witnessing an extraordinary challenge, and I couldn’t be prouder of our incredible NHS partners for the work they are doing to serve their populations.”

Royal Wolverhampton was already working in close partnership with Babylon having signed a 10-year deal for the company to develop a new model of digital-first integrated care across the region.