As the UK population ages, and the cohort of individuals living with multiple long-term conditions continues to surge, there is a need for operational reform in the NHS to maintain the provision of healthcare services. Intelligent Automation is being used by NHS organisations to support Elective Care Recovery, and deliver tangible transformation across outpatient services.

Reduces the elective care backlog
removes clinical risk and improved patient outcomes
drives systems wide transformation across pathways

System Priorities

  • Expand capacity and reduce the elective care backlog
  • Reduce waiting times
  • Prioritise treatment based on clinical urgency
  • Provide personalised care – including help and advice whilst patients wait
  • Minimise health inequalities

Key Benefits of Intelligent Automation:

Reduced Referral Backlog

Reduces Referral Backlog

Better Waitlist Management

Improves Waitlist Management

Improved Patient Care

Transforms Patient Care

Reduced Clinical Risk

Minimises Clinical Risk

Increased Workforce Capability

Increases Workforce Capability

Enhanced Data Quality

Enhances Data Quality

Sharon Osterfield – Transformation Director, e18 Innovation

“The scale of the challenge facing the NHS to recover its elective care backlog is significant. Also, staffing shortages, coupled with high turnover rates, continue to be a concern for most NHS organisations. Not only is the NHS as a whole currently unable to meet almost every target performance metric, worryingly, the trends are worsening month-on-month. Change is undoubtedly required to maintain the provision of healthcare services and reverse the negative trajectory.”

Utilising Intelligent Automation Tools to Reform Outpatient Services

The demand for secondary care services in England is increasing at an unprecedented rate, and the traditional approach of addressing capacity issues with temporary staffing is no longer feasible. NHS organisations have recognised that in order to maintain the provision of healthcare services, whilst simultaneously reducing the elective care backlog, digital transformation is required at scale.

Many trusts have turned to Intelligent Automation tools to increase efficiency, plug interoperability gaps within outpatient departments, and free up staff time. The majority of services operate multiple legacy systems, with both clinical and non-clinical staff frequently required to transfer data between systems. Administrative processes such as taking referrals from eRS and processing them into the trust’s Electronic Patient Records (EPRs), sending appointment reminders and executing re-bookings when required, and managing DNA processes to maximise capacity and ensure patient prioritisation, can all be automated, and have the potential to save significant amounts of time that can be repurposed to directly support patients.

e18 medical team

Sharon Osterfield – Transformation Director, e18 Innovation

“There is a pressing need for NHS organisations to accelerate digital transformation in order to support elective care recovery. A number of trusts that we work in partnership with at e18 are already using Intelligent Automation tools, such as Robotic Process Automation (RPA) and Conversational AI, to augment their workforce and address operational challenges. The benefits associated with automation are truly transformational for NHS organisations; for example, on average an acute trust can save around 10,000 hours per year by automating the processing of routine referrals.”

122.3 million

In 2021-22, there were 122.3 million outpatient appointments, 6.4% of which were DNAs

Use Cases

Referral Management

Referral Management

Appointment Bookings

Appointment Bookings

DNA Management

DNA Management

Waiting List Validation

Waiting List Validation

Patient Initiated Follow Ups

Patient Initiated Follow Ups (PIFU)

Advice and Guidance Requests

Advice and Guidance Requests

Patient Discharge

Patient Discharge

Appointment Bookings

Appointment and Patient Recall Reminders


Outpatient service automation in the NHS involves the use of technology, AI and RPA, to streamline and optimise various processes within outpatient healthcare, such as appointment scheduling, referrals, and data management. It works by automating repetitive tasks, reducing manual intervention, and enhancing the overall efficiency of outpatient services.

The NHS is investing in automation for outpatient services to improve patient care, reduce administrative burden on healthcare professionals, increase operational efficiency, and make better use of limited resources. Automation allows for quicker, more accurate, and cost-effective healthcare delivery.

Outpatient service automation can be applied to various processes, including appointment booking, patient registration, referral management, data entry, billing, and prescription processing, among others.

Automation can lead to improved patient care, reduced waiting times, minimised errors, increased staff productivity, enhanced data accuracy, cost savings, and improved patient and staff satisfaction.

Yes, patient data security is a top priority in healthcare automation. NHS trusts adhere to strict data protection regulations, ensuring that patient data is encrypted, access is restricted, and robust security measures are in place to protect against breaches.

Common technologies include electronic health record (EHR) systems, robotic process automation (RPA), artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning, and data analytics tools.

The timeline for automation implementation varies depending on the complexity of the process, but many automation initiatives can start delivering benefits within a few months. Discover our approach here.

Yes. These cases demonstrate reduced waiting times, enhanced data accuracy, and improved overall efficiency. Discover our case studies.