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Automation could free up 31% of GP time, says Hancock report

Automation in healthcare could reduce the need for GP visits, and save time and money in primary care, according to a new report launched by the health secretary.

The paper, published by campaign group Taxpayer’s Alliance, considered the existing and developing technology in the NHS and evaluated how automation could help amid staff shortages as it ‘frees healthcare professionals from more repetitive tasks and allows them to focus on patient care’.

The report found that 31% of GP time – equivalent to £962m - could potentially be freed up by automation due to improved productivity.  

Additionally, it illustrated 53% of time spent on GP support (including patient care and non-clinical) could be freed up due to automation, equating to the value of £880m.

One case study outlining automation in the health sector looked at ArtemusICS, a data-driven platform which identifies patients at risk of hospital admission.

The use of the platform is said to have reduced GP and nurse visits by between 40 and 50% and decreased hospital admissions for care home patients in Sussex by up to 75%.

Professor of primary care at Imperial College London, Professor Azeem Majeed said: ‘In the case of ArtemusICS, none of the articles that cite its benefits appear to be peer-reviewed publications in academic journals.

'In the real world, risk prediction tools such as ArtemusICS often don’t perform well because they can’t capture all the factors that contribute to deterioration in a patient. This has also been the case for many case-management interventions whereby some patients are targeted for extra support to reduce the risk of adverse outcomes such as emergency hospital admissions.

‘Like a lot of doctors, I would like to see the NHS get the ‘basics’ of IT right. This would include fast and reliable internet links, software that did not repeatedly crash or run very slowly, and better integration of IT systems to cut duplicate data entry.’

Professor Majeed added that although the NHS benefits from IT, it has ‘wasted large sums through the installation of failed IT systems.’

He said: ‘Hence, we have to be cautious about making grandiose claims for the benefits of IT to the NHS.’

Health Secretary Matt Hancock said: ‘Automation and innovation are changing the way we live our lives and can transform the way we deliver public services for decades to come. It is mission critical for all of us who love and cherish our NHS that we seize the opportunities of the future and ensure that modern technology benefits staff, benefits patients and benefits our country as a whole.’

Mr Hancock recently announced that GP practices would soon have access to fibre-optic broadband as part of a plan to improve the range of digital healthcare services. 

Chief executive of the Taxpayer’s Alliance John O'Connell said: ‘British taxpayers people pay for, and deserve, world-leading public services. The Government has committed to making the NHS a major spending priority, but everybody knows that it’s going to take more than just money to improve health services in this country.

‘The biggest priority should always be striving towards better outcomes for patients, which means freeing up NHS staff from monotonous tasks and giving them more time to spend on real care. Exciting developments in technology could deliver savings for taxpayers - but also, crucially, save more lives.’

It follows another report into the potential savings of automation published last year which suggested that £12bn could be saved by embracing automation.

At the beginning of this year, the Government launched the procurement process for providers of new GP IT systems, the GP IT Futures framework.

Last year, private healthcare provider Babylon pledged £75m to develop artificial intelligence that will help GPs diagnose and manage chronic conditions.

Readers' comments (12)

  • Matt the App and his idiot mate from the Tax Payers Alliance could both be 100% replaced by automation and they’d still be more trouble than they are worth.

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  • These risk prediction apps have been run for years with no significant benefits (except to the companies which supply them!)

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  • No peer review of these studies means they are basically rubbish.They have to be looked at critically and stand up to that kind of evaluation to be valid.If they wont open them up to peer review let us guess how good the research is!

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  • Vinci Ho

    (1) Obviously , Robocop is trying to change the narrative of how future health services should be conducted and he wanted to start from general practice as we are in a crisis anyway . Just like the movie(1987 one , not the bloody remake) , the crime-beleaguered Detroit in a dystopian future needed a new way to fight crime and it was about giving a contract to private company to develop pure technology-driven Robocop (The mayor signed a deal with the mega-corporation Omni Consumer Products (OCP), giving it complete control of the underfunded Detroit Police Department. ) . Remember that ?
    (2) Then ,obviously you need egghead researchers to publish articles to support the claim . How many times have we seen this ? Credit to Imperial College and Azeem to be the child laughing at the Emperor’s new clothes .
    (3) Absolutely no doubt we need a faster and more efficient broadband system to deliver what we are doing everyday . But this is because we owe our patients even better continuity of care which is constantly being eroded by this bunch of politicians and policy-pen pushing -makers .
    (4) I do not know whether AI can deliver exactly what we are doing now , one day in the future with its alternate ‘human touch’. But right now , we can do with less ostentatious ideologies siphoning away the vital resources we need every day to look after our patients .
    (5) The truth is always the truth and cannot be condemned to be a lie . A lie is a lie and cannot be wrapped up and packaged to become the truth 😑

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  • Burst in through patients door who's happily sipping tea-

    "Mr Bloggs, youve been identified as being at high risk of hospital admission..."

    "But I feel fine Doc?"

    "Too late for that- You need to start taking this combination of ramipril/atorvastatin/Metformin/Fluoxetine immediately and go on long term nitrofurnantoin"

    "Are you sure? Actually while you're here could you have a look at my knee it really hurts...."

    "Sorry no time my alarm is going off for Mrs Bates on Rodney Street her Qrisk has gone from 9.9 to 10.1"

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  • Does the taxpayers allowance committee have any health professionals on it?
    Will the automatons mean we can get rid of a health secretary?

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  • Lets remember that the taxpayer alliance is a right wing pressure group.
    This study is about as trustworthy as a pharmaceutical company's study which has not been peer reviewed. It is not worth the paper it is written on.

    The problem is that Slack Matt wound look any further than the headline and the advice of the pressure group.

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  • Well done Prof Majeed to these undouded assertions by Hancock and his fellow conspirators looking to milk money from a failing NHS.
    What any doctor can tell this numpty is that there are insufficient adequately trained health care professionals left to to the job. Clinical time is further wasted by CCG visits, CQC visits appraisal and revalidation, all of whichcould be removed increasing productivity by the value of some billions of pound while decreasing government spend.
    To this bonfire of the vanities could be added NICE and NHS England ( in all it's guises)with great cost savings. The resulting chaos would be easier to manage than the chaos and inefficiency they have created.
    Who would ever have thought that we could have had a worse health minister than Hunt!!

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  • If it frees me up so I can fit in an even denser workload of more complex patients per hour then please no - I will stay on sick leave instead

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  • I wonder what the concomitant increase in chance of getting sued/complaints is LOL
    Say it with me folks, this is what you get with socialised healthcare provision :)

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