Investing in a ‘far-reaching’ automation programme could save the NHS nearly £13bn a year, experts say

Findings from former Labour health minister Lord Darzi's health and social care review indicate the NHS could save a tenth of its annual running costs through automation.


[London, UK] Investing in a ‘far-reaching’ automation programme could generate savings of nearly £13bn a year for the NHS, with a further £6bn yearly productivity gain that could be realised through the adoption of new technologies within social care, a new report is to say. 

The research indicates that, compared with other industries where there is a fear that automation will lead to job losses, in health and social care it will complement the skills of professionals, reduce duplication, and help workers spend more time with their patients.

Experts analysed the value of the time that could be released through the process, concluding that it could lead to savings amounting to a tenth of the NHS’ annual running costs.

Findings were released by the Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR) ahead of the publication of former Labour health minister Lord Darzi’s review of health and social care.

It says that, in the future, AI-based systems, including machine-learning algorithms, could be used to make ‘more accurate’ diagnoses of diseases such as breast cancer and heart conditions, while ‘carebots’ could assist patients with rehabilitation processes and biosensors could allow clinicians to remotely monitor conditions.

However, there are several barriers slowing down the move towards automation, the report warns, such as a lack of investment in technology or a need to redesign pathways based on new solutions that are being introduced.

“But the opportunity is too great to ignore.

“That is why the NHS and social care system should embrace a managed process to achieve ‘full automation’ for repetitive and administrative tasks,” Lord Darzi’s report says, adding that the government should introduce a ‘right to be retrained and redeployed’ for health and social care professionals whose work and skills will be impacted by automation.

“The NHS turns 70 this year but we must turn our sights to the future. We should not accept an analogue NHS in a digital decade,” it adds.

Earlier this year, Health and Social Care Secretary Jeremy Hunt commissioned American cardiologist and digital medicine researcher Dr Eric Topol to carry out a review into the training NHS staff would need to undertake to ensure they were prepared to use AI and robotics. 

Related content:

Eric Topol to lead review on AI for the NHS

Leontina Postelnicu

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