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NHS trusts sign up to automation app store

Healthcare trusts extend relationships with automation supplier through access to a cloud-based marketplace of pre-baked automation

University Hospitals of Morecambe Bay NHS Foundation Trust is the latest organisation to sign up to a cloud-based platform that provides NHS trusts with previously scripted automation processes.

The trust has become a customer of Blue Prism’s cloud-based software-as-a-service, which enables NHS organisations to share processes already automated by other similar organisations.

This avoids the scripting work required to create software robots to carry out processes, with the trusts just paying for use as they go.

Organisations in the NHS use the same business and administration processes, so reusing already automated processes save time and money. There are currently about 40 pre-scripted automation processes available in what is known as the Blue Prism Cloud NHS marketplace.

Time saving is critical to the NHS, with essential clinical staff, such as midwives, often being weighed down with administration, according to Marc Hadwin, head of digital services at University Hospitals of Morecambe Bay Trust.

The trust was a small customer of Blue Prism until recently, with about five processes up and running.

One of these processes involved specialist midwives carrying out the administration of blood tests for pregnant women, which automated paper-based processes and saved the midwife a couple of hours a day.

The trust, which has 10,000 staff, including 150 in the IT department, wanted to increase its use of automation, said Hadwin. “We have been a customer of Blue Prism for about five years, but wanted to scale up, so decided to move onto Blue Prism Cloud for the expansion of our journey,” he said.

“We now have access to the NHS marketplace as a customer of Blue Prism Cloud. All NHS customers of Blue Prism Cloud can simply share their existing processes. The beauty of the marketplace is that you get ideas from other organisations and you share your ideas.”

Read more about the application of Blue Prism automation software

Hadwin pointed out that there are plenty of opportunities for further automation.

The marketplace was created by automation specialist Thoughtonomy, which Blue Prism acquired for £82m in June last year.

Hadwin said the Morecambe Bay Trust has about 300 systems, many of them common across the NHS. “We want to save staff time and this can be done fairly quickly through automating manual processes, and our other aim is to provide better services to our customers, such as automating communicating with them in their preferred way,” he said. “With 600,000 hospital appointments booked a year, there is no way our staff could proactively manage that level of personalised communication manually.”

This is part of the trust’s ongoing shift to the cloud, which includes a recent move to Microsoft Office 365. “It will take some time to move a lot of out 300 systems to the cloud, but that is a journey we are on,” said Hadwin.

He added that under the current Covid-19 lockdown, many staff are working from home, which has proved the value of cloud-based systems.

Other NHS organisations to sign up recently are the North East London Commissioning Support Unit, the Aneurin Bevan Health Board, Great Western Hospitals and Leeds Teaching Hospitals.

Mike Ogonovsky, assistant director of informatics at the Aneurin Bevan Health Board, said: “There are huge gains to be made in terms of incorporating intelligent automation into healthcare processes.

“The manual transfer of data between the systems used to manage the patient journey through primary care, ambulance service, secondary care and back into community care brings with it the risk of error and delay. It also takes valuable time out of the day for highly trained staff who should be focused on caring for patients.”

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