44% of GP admin jobs can be ‘fully automated’, according to the workforce plan

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

General practitioner practices will be encouraged to ‘take full advantage’ of technological innovations, such as voice recognition, to handle administrative work and free up doctors’ time.

NHS England and the Government published their workforce plans today, saying that ‘significant labor benefits’ could be gained from automating administrative processes across the NHS, including through AI applications such as voice recognition.

Pointing to research, the plan suggests that 44% of all clerical work in general practice could be ‘largely or fully automated’, and that ‘a number of hospitals and general practices’ have started using speech recognition technology to record clinical documentation, enabling staff to focus on patients while minimizing manual recording and improving the quality of data input.

His quote led to a Health Foundation analysis citing the ‘Oxford automation study’. It says that ‘44% of all administrative work done in general practice can be largely or fully automated, such as running payroll, sorting mail, transcription work, and printing letters’.

The document estimates one minute of savings per patient consultation, which is equivalent to approximately 5.7 million hours of general practitioner consultation time, with ‘further savings if all functions are optimized’.

He adds: ‘The broader benefits of using speech recognition include potential cost savings by bringing outsourced administrative activities, such as transcription, in-house, and reducing clinic paperwork turnaround time, contributing to an improved patient experience.

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

The commissioner will convene an ‘expert group’ to work out in more detail where AI might best be used, and what steps need to be taken to support NHS staff in the coming years.

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

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

‘All 42 ICS are now using RPA, including 38% community or mental health trusts and 61% acute trusts, but opportunities exist for further use.’

It is estimated that in the 12 months to March this year, 1.9 million people used home blood pressure monitors, sent readings to their GPs, supported self-management and saved GPs time and work is underway to expand NHS @home lines, including developing and testing new approaches to managing key conditions such as cardiovascular and respiratory disease.

The plan also highlights the Federated Data Platform (FDP) to ‘better connect the NHS’ which NHS England controversially acquired from US firm Palantir this year.

FDP will link existing systems, making it easier for staff to access the information they need in a safe and secure environment so they are better able to coordinate, plan and deliver high-quality care, the plan says.

The strategy has confirmed Government plans for Specialists and Associate Specialists (SAS) to join the primary care workforce, and promises to introduce over 20,000 additional clinical staff into general practice by 2036/37, building on the ‘success’ of these additional roles . replacement scheme (ARRS).

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