Welsh Ambulance Service using robots to byte down on repetitive tasks

Monday, 27 November, 2023


The Welsh Ambulance Service is using robots to help run its behind-the-scenes operations. 

The Trust is using Robotic Process Automation (RPA) technology to perform time-consuming administrative tasks to free up staff to focus on tasks that add the most value. 

The use of software robots, or 'digital workers,' is saving time and allowing colleagues to harness their skills more appropriately. 

Jonny Sammut, the Trust's Director of Digital, said: "It's been a long-held ambition to use RPA technology, so we're thrilled to be taking our first steps into it. 

"This is not about replacing humans with robots - it's about automating those repetitive and low-value tasks so that staff can focus their skill and expertise on the things that really matter. 

"While the corporate staff who perform these tasks aren't patient-facing, they support those who are, and anything which improves our efficiency behind-the-scenes means that patients will eventually reap the benefit too." 

The Trust secured funding from Welsh Government's Digital Priorities Investment Fund in March 2022 to explore RPA technology. 

To date, it has been used across five separate projects, including a project to streamline the creation of ICT accounts for new recruits.

 Almost 900 accounts have been created robotically since October 2022, freeing up ICT analysts to apply their technical expertise to more complex issues. 

The technology is also being used by the team who produce investigation reports in response to complaints, inquests and serious incidents. 

A once-manual trawl of logs to establish a timeline of what happened has been replaced by an automatic process, increasing the capacity of the team by an average 36 hours per week and allowing investigating officers to focus on tasks where human judgement is essential. 

Leanne Smith, Assistant Director of Digital Services, said: "Taking away the pain of repetitive, laborious tasks to enable our people to use their knowledge and expertise on high-value tasks is what this is all about. 

"This is our first foray into automation but already colleagues are saying that it's improving the workplace experience and boosting morale.

 "It's an exciting time, and we look forward to scaling up in the coming years." 

Meanwhile, the Trust is collaborating with the University of York to train the next generation of artificial intelligence (AI) professionals. 

The UKRI AI Centre for Doctoral Training (CDT) in Lifelong Safety Assurance of AI-Enabled Autonomous Systems (SAINTS) will welcome its first students next year. 

Nigel Rees, Assistant Director of Research and Innovation at the Welsh Ambulance Service, said: "Safety is central to the responsible and trustworthy adoption of AI.

"SAINTS will bring together PhD students from a broad spectrum of industries to deliver a new generation of experts who make leading contributions to the safety of AI. 

"Research will focus on risk reduction in sectors where safety is paramount, like healthcare, whilst taking a broader view of safety in its technical, legal, ethical and societal context. 

"We will help students navigate the broader AI research environment and become future engineers, leaders, entrepreneurs and policymakers in AI safety." 

Professor Ibrahim Habli, Director of SAINTS CDT, added: "From autumn 2024, we will open our doors to the first cohort of doctoral students undertaking trailblazing work in AI development and safety assurance. 

"This is an exciting development, and we value support from the Welsh Ambulance Service in helping this become a reality. 

"This will strengthen our existing relationship with WAST and build future collaborations to ensure the trustworthy and responsible development and adoption of AI in this vital area of healthcare."

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