Lord Darzi calls for full automation of NHS

Robots could soon be treating patients at their bedsides, according to new report

Lord Darzi's report is out later this month

Hospitals could soon be staffed by bedside robots as part of a controversial plan mooted by the man behind one of the biggest shake-ups of the NHS since its inception.

Lord Darzi of Denham carried out a major review of the NHS, culminating in the publication of the report, High Quality Care for All: NHS Next Stage Review in 2008.

While sci-fi films can distort the impact of AI technology, it’s time to stop viewing AI as an existential threat to our livelihoods and our health

And now he has called for the health service to embrace automation in order to deliver improved services at a lower cost.

He claims the move could save almost 10% of the annual cost of running the NHS, with a further £6billion saved in productivity gains.

In his report, due to be published later this month, he adds that 30% of social care tasks could also be carried out more efficiently by adopting new technology.

In it he calls on the Government to embrace a strategy aimed at delivering ‘full automation’ for repetitive and administrative tasks in health and care such as communicating medical notes, booking appointments, and processing prescriptions.

Furthermore, the report predicts a future in which robots and artificial intelligence (AI) play a key role in treating and supporting clinical practice, offering clinicians more time to focus on direct patient care.

For example, someone arriving at hospital could be digitally triaged in an automated assessment suite, and AI systems, including machine-learning algorithms, could be used to make more-accurate diagnoses of diseases such as pneumonia, breast and skin cancers, eye diseases, and heart conditions.

Commenting on the announcement, Mark Bridger, vice president of OpenText, told BBH: “Artificial intelligence and cognitive technologies have the potential to completely transform healthcare services.

The true value of AI will be found in it working alongside humans to ease the pressure across the healthcare system as well as making our lives easier

“While sci-fi films can distort the impact of AI technology, it’s time to stop viewing AI as an existential threat to our livelihoods and our health.

“AI will transform the workplace as menial tasks, and some non-routine jobs, are digitalised through robotics and process automation, but it cannot replace people.

“The true value of AI will be found in it working alongside humans to ease the pressure across the healthcare system as well as making our lives easier.

“By implementing AI when tapping into the vast volumes of data available to them, healthcare organisations can gain access to real-time information and sophisticated insights – empowering them to improve decision-making and deliver services that really do meet the needs and wants of UK citizens.”