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44% of GP admin work can be ‘fully automated’, workforce plan suggests

44% of GP admin work can be ‘fully automated’, workforce plan suggests

The NHS workforce plan has suggested nearly half of GP practices’ admin work could be ‘fully automated’ using new technology.

GP practices will be encouraged to ‘take full advantage’ of technological innovations, such as speech recognition, to deal with administrative work and free up clinicians’ time.

NHS England and the Government published their workforce plan earlier today, which said that ‘significant workforce benefit’ can be gained from the automation of administrative processes in the NHS, including through AI applications such as speech recognition.

Pointing to research, the plan suggested that 44% of all administrative work in general practice can be ‘mostly or fully automated’, and that ‘a number of hospitals and general practices’ have already begun to use speech recognition technology to record clinical documentation, allowing staff to focus on patients as well as minimising manual record keeping and improving the quality of data input.

Its citation led to a Health Foundation analysis citing the ‘Oxford automation study’. This said that ‘44% of all administrative work performed in general practice can be either mostly or completely automated, such as running payroll, sorting post, transcription work and printing letters’.

The document estimated one minute saved per patient consultation, which equates to approximately 5.7 million hours of GP consultation time, with ‘further savings possible should all functionalities be optimised’.

It added: ‘Wider benefits of using speech recognition include potential cost savings through bringing outsourced administrative activity, such as transcription, in-house, and reducing clinic letter turnaround times, contributing to improved patient experience.

‘From the developing evidence base, it is expected that AI can free up staff time and improve efficiency of services.’

The commissioner will convene ‘an expert group’ to work through in more detail where AI can best be used, and what steps need to be taken so that it supports NHS staff in the coming years.

According to the plan, time spent on administrative processes can also be ‘significantly reduced’ by using robotic process automation (RPA) to automate back-office tasks in the NHS.

The document said: ‘RPA increases operational capacity and speed and improves safety; it is available 24/7 and can undertake tasks 4–10 times faster with fewer errors. Most organisations report 20–30% cost reduction and 30–50% return on investment on RPA projects.

‘All 42 ICSs now use RPA, including 38% of community or mental health trusts and 61% of acute trusts, but there are opportunities for further uptake.’

It estimated that in the 12 months to March this year, 1.9 million people used a blood pressure monitor at home, submitting readings to their GP, supporting self-management and saving GP time and that work is underway to expand NHS @home pathways, including developing and testing new approaches for managing major conditions such as cardiac and respiratory disease.

The plan also highlighted the Federated Data Platform (FDP) to ‘better connect the NHS’ which NHS England is controversially procuring from US company Palantir this year.

The FDP will connect existing systems, making it easier for staff to access the information they need in a safe and secure environment so that they are better able to co-ordinate, plan and deliver high quality care, the plan said.

The strategy has confirmed Government plans for Specialty and Associate Specialist (SAS) doctors to join the primary care workforce, and pledged to introduce more than 20,000 additional clinical staff to general practice by 2036/37, building on ‘the success’ of the additional roles reimbursement scheme (ARRS).


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Please note, only GPs are permitted to add comments to articles

Richard Hook 30 June, 2023 5:10 pm

Er….none of the things cited as being suitable to be “automated” are things that actual GPs usually do, so while Thai may save some administrative staff some time it isn’t going to help GPs themselves or increase their numbers is it? Many GP Partnerships will already have automated/efficiency-driven their admin already, so I am not sure how this constitutes a new “big” idea….

fareed bhatti 30 June, 2023 5:14 pm

I already use speech recognition software and can tell you quite categorically…It doesn’t shovel the shit for you!

Turn out The Lights 30 June, 2023 5:58 pm

Would be nice to have a basic clinical system that worked.Get the basics right this is BS.

David Church 30 June, 2023 6:24 pm

Deters any confidence that the rest of the plan is based on any solid foundations either.

Fedup GP 30 June, 2023 7:53 pm

Presently – it is a good day if the computer boots up. Anything after that is a bonus. Primary care IT is a bag of sh1t. EMIS is a joke. I usually have to close 8 pop ups to issue a single prescription. It is the one of the primary reasons I am leaving! Things would have to change radically for this to became a help rather than a hinder

Christopher Ives 30 June, 2023 10:23 pm

This sounds optimistic rather than realistic. Especially for a new technology that hasn’t been widely implemented yet. Perhaps it will do this in the future but the lead time may be a decade before it becomes mainstream and easily implementable. We still get faxes and things in the post or notes from patients written on post its.

Dr No 30 June, 2023 10:32 pm

@fedup… ah ..EMIS! When I moved practices a decade ago aside from the joy of the new, was the unmitigated joy of never having to use EMIS Web ever again! It drove me truly insane! I had a prison style advent calendar on my wall stating the number of days remaining till I could stop using EMIS Web. Vision was horrid but a mere minor demon is comparison with the truly Satanic EMIS. Now we have Systm1. It works. Mostly.

win win 3 July, 2023 3:35 pm

They live on a different planet.