Chatbot helps people move up NHS waiting lists

Date posted: 15th June 2022

Patients have been able to move up hospital waiting lists thanks to an innovative artificial intelligence service being piloted by the Lancashire and South Cumbria NHS.

Chatbot is an automated call system which guides patients through a series of questions designed by NHS consultants and healthcare experts. It enables patients to let NHS trusts know if their condition has worsened and, where necessary, speed up their treatment or if they no longer require treatment.

Thanks to Chatbot, 15 per cent of people on waiting lists have in fact been removed, meaning quicker access to services for those remaining patients who need to be seen. The pilot will now be extended to patients in two other areas of Lancashire.

Gary Doherty, director of service development at Lancashire Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, said:

“Chatbot has had some fantastic results, both for our patients and for the NHS hospitals treating them, demonstrating what a great initiative this is.

“People in Blackpool and East Lancashire should not be worried if they receive a text message or a call from a number they don’t recognise. The service will be similar to telephone banking, but no one will be asked to divulge any sensitive information on the call.

“This is an opportunity for patients to make sure they are reviewed for treatment, at the same time as freeing up NHS staff resources. If patients in Blackpool and East Lancashire engage with the service in the same way, that will be a successful result for patients and their local hospital.”

The pilot saw 2,282 waiting list patients in the Morecambe Bay and Preston areas receive an automated call asking them about their health condition. Three quarters (75 per cent) of patients responded to either the automated call, or a follow-up call from a member of staff.

The results of the pilot found:

  • 15 per cent of all patients indicated that they were able to leave the waiting list - ensuring that waiting lists are up to date so our hospitals can focus on those patients who require treatment and freeing up NHS hospital staff for other essential duties.
  • 85 per cent of all patients indicated they were able to remain on the waiting list.
  • Ten per cent of inpatients indicated they required an appointment sooner.

On the back of this success, another 2,000 people in Blackpool and East Lancashire will now be contacted by the automated system. Patients will receive an SMS text message beforehand to warn them to expect the call.

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