Health & Lifestyle

Rise of the robot receptionist: AI tech will be used to schedule appointments

Patients could book GP appointments through robot receptionists under plans to use artificial intelligence (AI) to make the NHS more efficient.

Such systems are thought to be up to 10 times quicker than humans, and cheaper.

AI software could also be available for doctors to transcribe their notes, to provide test results and analyse referrals, it was suggested today. 

Calls to make use of pioneering technology comes as part of the long-awaited NHS workforce plan, which is set to be released in full later this week.

Rishi Sunak said the blueprint will be ‘one of the most significant announcements in the history of the NHS’. 

The proposals form part of the long-awaited NHS workforce plan, which is set to be released in full later this week and will be 'one of the most significant announcements in the history of the NHS', according to the Prime Minister (pictured yesterday with Health Secretary Steve Barclay)

The proposals form part of the long-awaited NHS workforce plan, which is set to be released in full later this week and will be ‘one of the most significant announcements in the history of the NHS’, according to the Prime Minister (pictured yesterday with Health Secretary Steve Barclay)

The Prime Minister said the plan will ‘reduce our reliance’ on foreign staff, while also helping to tackle chronic NHS waiting lists.

The current cap on medical school places is set to be doubled from 7,500 in England to 15,000, allowing a greater number of students to train as doctors.

A section of the report, yet to be seen by MailOnline, sets out that AI and robotics should be used in the NHS to overhaul how it interacts with patients and its role in diagnostics and screening. 

It contains a push for the use of ‘robotic process automation’, according to The Daily Telegraph.

Such processes could involve scheduling appointments.

Doctors could use artificial intelligence (AI) software, such as ChatGPT, to transcribe their notes, the document suggests.

NHS trusts will be urged to use software to analyse performance and identify where more appointments can be squeezed in. 

Writing in The Sunday Times, Mr Sunak said technology is ‘part of the answer’ to tackling the NHS crisis and said ‘advances such as artificial intelligence can lend a helping hand’.

The health service is currently battling a record backlog and 124,000 vacancies.

Health Secretary Steve Barclay lobbied for potential advances in technology to be set out in the plans, according to The Telegraph. 

A source close to Mr Barclay told the paper: ‘Technology and innovation, particularly AI, are changing the nature of healthcare, and the Health Secretary is keen that they play a huge part in improving diagnosis and treatment, and cutting waiting lists.

‘He wants AI to help reduce workload and raise productivity, supporting staff and freeing up their time to focus on caring for patients.’

Last week, the Health Secretary unveiled a £21milion fund to use AI to speed up cancer diagnoses and treatment times and slash record waiting lists. 

Other leaked sections of the plan include doubling the cap on medical school places in England from 7,500 to 15,000, allowing a greater number of students to train as doctors.

And tens of thousands of aspiring doctors are expected to start working in the NHS without going to university. Instead, they would ‘earn while they learn’ for five years, before sitting the same exam as medical students to become doctors.

Officials believe up to one in 10 doctors and a third of all nurses could eventually be trained through this radical new approach to recruitment. 

Mr Sunak has also indicated that plan will include an expansion of ‘specialist GPs’. 

The PM told the BBC’s Sunday With Laura Kuenssberg show: ‘This week we’re going to do something that no government has ever done.

‘It’s going to be one of the most significant announcements in the history of the NHS, and that is to make sure that it has a long-term workforce plan so that we can hire the doctors, nurses and GPs that we need, not just today, but for years into the future, to provide the care that we all need.’

He added: ‘What it will represent is the largest expansion in training and workforce in the NHS’s history.’ But he conceded the changes might take up to 15 years for patients to feel the benefits.’

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