Emergency department

AI kettles and fridges to reduce A&E pressure as NHS England launches new solutions for winter prevention

NHS England has rolled out a number of AI measures to help improve treatment and reduce pressure ahead of winter.

This includes the health service in Buckinghamshire using AI linked to electronic sensors on kettles and fridges, which can detect changes in a patient's eating and drinking habits.

This enables a non-clinical team to address the problem – solving it 95% of the time, or escalating if the issue is clinical.

An AI system is being used across four GP practices in Somerset to highlight patients who have complex health needs, are at risk of a hospital admission, or who rarely contact their GP.

Preventive care will be delivered to those deemed most at risk; this could include everything from food parcels and referrals to specialist doctors, all the way to support to avoid falls and links to voluntary groups.

Birmingham NHS teams are also piloting an algorithm which predicts the top 5% of people at risk of hospital visits or admissions. This allows staff to carry out social care assessments, medication reviews and other social prescribing measures to avoid people going to A&E.

Over two years, the initiative could prevent 4,500 unnecessary emergency department attendances, cut out 17,000 overnight hospital stays, and free up 23,000 GP appointments.

                                                                        Video credit: Canva

The digital technology solutions come as the NHS braces for more winter pressures, with A&Es across England recently experiencing the busiest October on record and ambulance services seeing the most demanding month of the year.

September saw NHS England’s elective care waiting lists grow to 7.77 million (6.5 million people) – the highest since records began in 2007.

When responding to the latest performance figures, NHS Providers’ deputy chief executive, Saffron Cordery, said: "The NHS – right across hospital, ambulance, mental health and community services – needs more staff, more beds and more government investment in modern facilities to give patients the best possible care."

On the latest suite of roll-outs, NHS England’s chief executive, Amanda Pritchard, explained: “NHS staff across the country are already feeling the pressure with record demand for A&E and ambulance services – and so these new innovations being rolled out by NHS teams are an extra and welcome addition to our winter toolkit, with more call handlers and more beds already in place.”

So-called care traffic control centres and an expanded virtual ward offering are already part of the NHS’s winter preparations.

Hero image credit: iStock

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