Skip to main content
Home » Supporting the NHS » The use of automation can address the NHS administration crisis

Max Jones

Health Managing Partner, Agilisys

Automation holds the key to rapidly solving the NHS’ administrative resourcing problem and ultimately improving patient care.

While the impact of COVID-19 has undoubtedly exacerbated the problem, the growth in administrative resourcing in the NHS is a problem that existed well before the pandemic. In fact, since 2014, the NHS has piled on a further 25,000 clerical and administrative roles – a number that highlights how the system has failed to adopt a transformative approach to work.

I believe this is a direct consequence of the failure of the now dismantled National Programme for Information Technology to transform the local NHS Trust IT landscape and a legislative system in the H&SC Act 2013 that valued competition over collaboration.

Potential automation benefits

Whatever the reason, this administrative growth symbolises the enormous potential benefits of automation to the NHS. In fact, from our experience of delivering the latest digital solutions to the NHS and wider public sector, we estimate that over £200 million can be saved each year across NHS trusts, pharmacies, dental and optometry.

The recently published Health Education England (HEE) AI Roadmap Dashboard details the impact of automation and service efficiency technologies on the NHS. While automation is most often applied to non-clinical areas, the benefits are felt across multiple clinical areas. This seems common sense in that if you remove administrative pressures from staff, they can spend their time better supporting patients.

Developing coherent approaches to automation

There’s a clear opportunity for the NHS to develop a coherent approach to transforming processes using the very best that change management and technology has to offer. Automation makes sense as it delivers rapid benefits, so now is the time for the NHS to embrace an automation and transformation revolution. For me, creating a federated automation hub approach is the best option.

While automation is most often applied to non-clinical areas, the benefits are felt across multiple clinical areas.

Such an approach would help the NHS build centres of excellence for automation that are anchored around the local opportunities for automation, linked to a clear National Automation Strategy and supported by expert automation partners.

Private partnerships with the NHS are needed

Crucially, however, to deliver the pace and build skills across the whole of the NHS, a partnership with the private sector will be necessary. Agilisys developed an automation partnership with NHSBSA to develop skills, recruit and train people, implement management processes and co-develop successful automations, covering critical areas such as the NHS Electronic Staff Record and NHS pensions.

We are proud to have supported NHSBSA in developing its centre of excellence. We’ve demonstrated how automation can be effective and drive efficiencies across multiple processes at scale and remain a sustainable asset for the NHS.

Success for centres of excellence

Centres of excellence succeed because they focus on two imperatives for automation success. A report by McKinsey stresses the first, which is the need for automation to be made a strategic priority. When it is, organisations enjoy vast increases in success. We need national digital leaders to establish a National Automation Strategy.

Secondly, successful organisations gather individuals’ expertise and embed it in the design of automation solutions. Success is more likely when automation is scaled up using “human in the loop” solutions. This is not about a loss of control or taking humans out of the process entirely. It’s about automating the robotic and repetitive tasks to free up valuable time for our brilliant NHS staff.

The NHS is at a turning point in its adoption of digital and at a critical moment when it comes to staffing. Add in the enormous explosion in administration and we have a situation that we simply cannot ignore.

We want to enable our fabulous NHS staff to spend their time caring. The NHS has a terrific opportunity with automation – and we’re ready to support the NHS as a constructively disruptive partner.

Next article