A £250million framework that aims to signpost NHS organisations to “leading” intelligent automation solutions is set to be launched.

NHS Shared Business Services (SBS) has issued a tender calling for intelligent automation (IA) vendors that supply “off the shelf” solutions.

The 48-month framework will allow NHS organisations to purchase IA services from pre-approved suppliers, streamlining the process of implementing IA in the health service.

Adam Nickerson, NHS SBS senior category manager of digital and IT, said: “Our goal is to give the NHS a choice of leading Intelligent Automation (IA) solutions to best support healthcare providers wherever they are on their journey towards realising the value of automation.

“This new framework will enable the adoption, implementation and on-going development of IA within the health system, including in care settings.”

Intelligent automation combines artificial intelligence (AI) and robotic process automation (RPA) to help simplify backend processes like administrative backlogs, a task that often slows down care in the NHS.

“A report by GlobalData, for example, found a third of a community-based clinician’s time is spent on admin and over half of doctors spend at least an hour a day on work that could be carried out by non-clinical staff,” Nickerson added.

“Therefore, automating certain aspects of NHS administrative tasks could substantially increase capacity in our healthcare system by releasing the clinical workforce to focus on their most valuable task in hand – patient care.”

Nickerson added that the Covid-19 pandemic saw an increase in automation pilots, including 24/7 monitoring of crucial oxygen supply; flu-reporting bots monitoring the number of NHS staff being vaccinated and flu-related absences; and the migration of 6.5 million patient records between Electronic Patient Record (EPR) systems.

Suppliers interested in applying for a place on the framework have until August 25.

More information on the tender can be found here, or to speak with NHS SBS email nsbs.digital@nhs.net