A third NHS trust has signed a deal with Babylon Health to use its digital triaging technology.

Royal Berkshire NHS Foundation Trust joins two Midlands trusts in deploying the app-based service to provide online triage in a bid to keep unnecessary A&E visits down.

Babylon has also been working with trusts across the West Midlands and Berkshire to develop Ask A&E, a 24-hour digital service aimed at helping people access the right information about their symptoms.

Steve McManus, chief executive of The Royal Berkshire NHS Foundation Trust, said: “We originally built an emergency department to cater for 65,000 patients per year. In 2019 we looked after 118,000 patients, averaging 320 per day.

“Since Covid-19 arrived, attendance has dropped to 190 patients per day. That is partly due to fewer accidents as people are staying at home, and partly because people are self-caring, but it also suggests there is a lost group that are suffering in silence and not seeking support.

“With NHS 111 being extremely busy at the moment, the Ask A&E service offers a trusted way to get information from the NHS.

“It will greatly increase the information for our patients, reduce the number who have to come to the hospital and, as a result, maximise the impact our staff can have for the patients who need them.”

Fewer than 30% of queries over the last few months were ones which typically required a visit to A&E, according to Babylon.

Across Birmingham, 13% of queries typically required use of an ambulance, 14% A&E, while 18% required to speak to a GP and 55% used self-care or a non-urgent service, the company said.

Dr Ali Parsa, chief executive and founder of Babylon, added: “8% of England’s population are now covered by our digital services, and it has been humbling to see the way every part of our health system has come together to support our communities at this time of national crisis.”

In April University Hospitals Birmingham NHS Foundation Trust and The Royal Wolverhampton NHS Trust partnered with Babylon to use its Covid-19 care assistant.

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, aiming to ease pressure on GPs and 111 services.

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.