Report: Primary Care AI and Automation Grants Scheme pilot summary


GP practices across England are facing continually rising workloads, with detrimental impacts to staff wellbeing, productivity and patient experience. AI and automation technologies are emerging as promising tools for enhancing primary care capabilities. These solutions have the ability to transform traditionally manual administrative processes, such as call and recall or workforce rota management, by providing services with minimal human involvement. Yet, there is still a lack of widespread adoption and optimisation of these technologies across primary care settings.

In March 2022, the Health Innovation Network (HIN) South London partnered with the NHS England (NHSE) (London) Digital First team to launch the Primary Care AI and Automation Grants Scheme. The scheme set out to streamline high-volume, low-risk, routine tasks in real-life primary care settings through the use of AI and automation solutions. The implementation of these solutions held the promise of alleviating the strain on resources, enhancing consistency in processes, reducing variation, increasing productivity, improving patient care and increasing staff satisfaction. These potential benefits also align with critical national strategic priorities, including the NHS Long Term Workforce Plan, the Fuller Principles, and the Primary Care Access Recovery Plan (PCARP) priorities.

Applications were invited from primary care providers across London and assessed on scope, scale, impact, sustainability and opportunities for spread and adoption. The successful pilot sites were announced by the HIN and NHSE (London) Digital First in October 2022. The 11 pilots were granted over £600,000 of seed funding for new AI and automation solutions and the scaling of existing solutions. In the same month, 14 automations were launched across London. The 12 month pilots focused on six themes:

1. Pathology.

2. New patient registrations.

3. Call and recall.

4. Workforce rota management.

5. Clinical safety.

6. Clinical document management.


1. Understand the problem and whether automation is appropriate.

2. Start small and scale.

3. Thoroughly scope available products.

4. Identify supplier familiarity with primary care systems.

5. Assess contract conditions.

6. Outline roles, responsibility and accountability.

7. Set realistic timeframes.

8. Understand governance and regulatory compliance.

9. Co-produce.

10. Provide ongoing training and optimisation.

Key findings and learnings

The resulting summary report details the processes implemented at each pilot site, as well as the key achievements, outcomes and next steps. Key milestones from the pilots include:

  • 18,000 new online registrations

    Approximately 18,000 online new patient GP registrations were validated and automatically uploaded into clinical systems.

  • 20,000 'normal' pathology results

    Approximately 20,000 ‘normal’ pathology results were automatically reviewed and filed.

  • Pioneering use of WhatsApp

    Islington GP Federation’s pilot was the first to be formally approved by the NHS IM1 team for the utilisation of an AI chatbot through WhatsApp for call and recall.

  • Improved call and recall process for patients with long-term conditions

    One pilot was able to recall 50% of diabetic and hypertensive patients within five weeks, a process that would have previously taken months.

    The report also demonstrates the wealth of resources and learnings provided by the pilots, assisting with future automation journeys. These include process maps, process definition documents, search routines, decision trees, blueprints and learning resources, which can be accessed here.


    In this way, the Primary Care AI and Automation Grants Scheme pilot summary report helps to amplify the potential of AI and automation solutions across primary care settings. This contributes to a collective vision of the future, impacting decision-making and invigorating the digital solutions market. It also supports others to navigate the benefits and obstacles associated with AI and automation solutions, contributing to the development of a primary care setting that is resilient for the future.

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    Read the full report to learn more about the benefits and obstacles of implementing AI and automation in primary care settings.

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