There’s just two weeks to go until the first ever HETT North event taking place on the 2nd March at Manchester Central Convention Complex! In anticipation of the event, we caught up with Jade Ackers, Programme Director Digital Productivity at NHS England Transformation Directorate to find out more about RPA in the current NHS landscape and what we can expect from her session ‘Scaling RPA Solutions: Building a Future Proofed BAU Approach to Automation. 



Key challenges in the adoption of RPA  

  • Funding – capital and revenue challenges for RPA due to competing priorities, including both national priorities and other digital strategies. 
  • Resistance to change – within the current workforce and some are concerned about job loss as a result of the adoption of RPA.  
  • Education – an understanding across organisations on which types of process can be automated, so it’s essential these organisations are educated on the solutions.
  • Interoperability and data quality – there is a lot of variable and unstructured, or “dirty” data within the NHS and this needs to be cleaned and structured before any process can be automated.
  • Collaboration – it’s key to have collaboration between clinicians, IT teams and project teams to deliver successful automation.
  • Technical – caused by legacy processes and systems and the need of developers across the NHS to build and maintain processes. 

Key opportunities for RPA within the NHS 

There are many opportunities for RPA for elective recovery and services that sit within that.  You can look at referrals, electronic triage, RTT tracking, AI-based e-learning, appointments, and how we can use automation to initiate follow ups and have clinical auto-capacity management. 

Diagnostics is also a key opportunity as we can look at automated remote monitoring, intelligent diagnostics bookings, theatres and theatre capacity and how automation can help manage the bookings and triage of theatres.  

How those implementing RPA can best influence buy-in 

There’s a number of ways to influence buy-in including: 

  • Opportunities to take the learnings and recommendations based on an organisation’s own experience of RPA implementation.
  • Showcase expertise and experience that organisations have been facing through sharing case studies or resources to ensure an awareness of communities using the technology and RPA best practice.
  • Reinforcing that enabling increased productivity and operational efficiency system wide is something that we need to do. The future of NHS is dependent on the overall productivity and efficiency of the way services are delivered as it ensures that quality care is delivered to patients and that staff are satisfied in their jobs.
  • Empowering people to learn collaboratively and share evidence based recommendations. It’s important to showcase things that have worked well and any learnings an organisation has and how they were able to overcome them.   

Early wins with digital productivity tools in the NHS 

There have been some fantastic uses of RPA across the NHS, with some standout cases from: 

  • Worcestershire Health and Care NHS Trust – using speech recognition technology has been a great enabler in reducing the admin burden of updating patient records by streamlining workflows and reducing pressure on staff. This has enabled them to free up time for patient care, make better use of tools and systems, help withy recruitment, training, well being and digital culture
  • Surrey NHS Trust – deployed a Mind Matters AI chatbot which has been designed to enhance talking therapies, referral workflow and staff wellbeing
  • Mid Yorkshire hospitals – completing a 12 month pilot across 3 hospitals to automate its e learning process to provide staff with access to learning as quickly as possible. The pilot has seen a saving of 72% of time taken to register new staff for e learning.
  • Midlands Partnership NHS - used RPA to clear the backlog of 40,000 document by improving document scanning processes and reducing processing time by 75% 

Is there an opportunity for more sustainable services within the NHS with digital productivity tools? 

There is a desire to improve training experiences and provide flexible working opportunities with digital tools. St Helens and Knowlesley Teaching Hospitals NHS have developed a system that empowers staff to quickly and easily pick up shifts from across the regions which has reduced the number of gaps that would need to be filled ordinarily by costly agency workers.  

The aims were to improve training experience and provide flexible working opportunities as part of the national doctors and training e learning programme whilst reducing the burden of admin on managerial staff. Within the first year St. Helens and Knowlesley Trust retained £3.4 million worth of staffing costs, filling more than 33,000 hours of shifts, enabling over 5,500 clinicians to work across 18 trusts and enabling 95% of trainees to be accepted in the first 72 hours. 

Find out more about Scaling RPA Solutions at HETT North, 2nd March 

Join Jade Ackers at HETT North on 2nd March in Manchester Central Convention Complex to watch the session ‘Scaling RPA Solutions: Building a Future Proofed BAU Approach to Automation’.  

Jade and her fellow speakers will be discussing intelligent automation technologies and the continuum from where we are now in terms of robotic process automation, and the fact that 85% of NHS organisations now have automation capability and across every sector in the NHS. We will be looking at where we are now to where we would love the NHS to get to. 

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