A pilot project using AI-powered chatbots has been rolled out to patients on waiting lists in Morecambe Bay and Preston within Lancashire and South Cumbria NHS trusts.

The ChatBot automated call system allows patients to inform their hospital of their current health status. It takes patients through a series of questions that have been designed by NHS consultants and healthcare experts to extract the necessary information.

As a result, NHS trusts can be made aware of any patients whose conditions may have deteriorated, allowing them to prioritise their treatment if necessary. It can also ensure patients in Lancashire or South Cumbria who no longer require an appointment are removed from the list.

The pilot service was trialled by over 2,000 patients, who received an automated call asking about their health condition. Three-quarters of patients responded to the ChatBot service. Of those, 15% indicated they were ready to leave the waiting list, helping to free up waiting list capacity. A further 10% of inpatients indicated they needed an appointment sooner, ensuring timely treatment could be given.

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.”

The success of the trial will now see the ChatBot service extended to a further 2,000 patients in Blackpool and East Lancashire.

Doherty continued: “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.”

This year has already seen chatbots be rolled out as therapy tools at Dorset Healthcare University NHS Foundation Trust and Central and North West London NHS Foundation Trust.