Kickstarting automation: Everything The Mid Yorkshire Hospitals NHS Trust achieved with RPA in just 12 months

As part of its continued digital transformation, The Mid Yorkshire Hospitals NHS Trust recently adopted use of NDL’s Robotic Process Automation (RPA) platform to revolutionise its internal and clinical processes. Providing a range of services across hospitals in Pinderfields, Dewsbury, and Pontefract, as well as its surrounding communities, the Trust is committed to improving patient care and streamlining its operations wherever possible.  

As an organisation completely new to the concept of RPA, they defied odds to automate an impressive five processes in just 12 months, with projects including:  

  • A centralised management system for its domestic abuse alert process 
  • Automation of healthcare staff registrations for its Digital Learning Solution (DLS) 
  • The closing of lingering episodes of patient care within its Patient Administration System (PAS) 
  • The population of missing gender information in the Integrated Clinical Environment (ICE) 
  • The population of email addresses in PAS 

To find out how the Trust achieved such great results – as well as lessons learned throughout the process – we caught up with Digital Programme Manager, Gareth Cinnamon. Read the full interview below.  

What did you hope to achieve within your first year of working with us? 

Gareth: “As an organisation completely new to RPA and automated processes, we didn't want to do anything enormously large or complex. Essentially, we had 12 months to make a difference in the Trust – 12 months to almost determine whether or not RPA would even be useful to us.  

“Given the fact that when we first started out, we didn't have any of the skills required - we knew we needed to grow our skills internally as we implemented these new projects, through the training and Development Days provided by NDL. So, in terms of what we originally wanted to achieve in the first 12 months - we wanted to prove whether or not RPA technology would work for us in the Trust, and if we could see benefits to using it.” 

And what were you actually able to achieve?  

Gareth: “In just 12 months, we were able to get five RPA projects live - all while dealing with the effects of the pandemic. Some people unfamiliar with RPA might think that’s not that many – but as an organisation who have never used this technology before and didn’t really have the internal resources in place to support it, that’s actually a really great result.  

“These five projects have shown us that RPA does provide opportunities to facilitate delivery of our strategic objectives (such as the national mandate for the Trust to become paperless by 2023) and during the past year has contributed to improvements in safeguarding, efficiencies, and data quality, amongst others - evidencing the potential for further projects.” 

How did you choose which processes to automate initially? 

Gareth: “When we first began to scope out the project, we reached out to various teams and departments, asking them if there were any processes they felt would benefit from automation. And initially, ideas came back in their floods! Every team was interested in implementing RPA, and at first, we were overwhelmed with the number of requests.  

“So, from there, we had to decide which processes we could prioritise as our first projects. We were looking for smaller, quick wins that would demonstrate to us whether or not RPA would be a good fit – but we also wanted to make an impact. We assessed which processes would be realistic in terms of our 12-month timescale, but also which processes were the most labour intensive for our teams. In this initial period, we were really looking for processes that provided the greatest ROI with the least effort and time required. 

“We also wanted to pick different processes that would apply to the breadth of the service. We wanted to impress everyone from our clinical staff to our administrative and finance teams, and to make sure there was something for everybody. It was really a case of getting our heads together and assessing the viability of each process suggested.  

“Going forward, we’re going to take a slightly different approach to how we choose our next projects. We had so many great suggestions, and we don’t want to disappoint any of our teams that reached out to us during the initial scoping phase. We’re now putting together an Oversight Group, who can really focus on which processes need to be implemented and where, so we can be efficient and effective with our next automation projects.” 

How has the Trust been able to turn around so many projects in such a short period of time? 

Gareth: “It was really about knowing our own strengths and weaknesses. We knew we were an organisation with no previous experience with RPA, and we didn’t have the internal resources to implement it either. So, we went into this first 12 months with the intention of collaborating with NDL and accessing their Professional Services – we took advantage of all of the training and Development Days provided, and had plenty of support from [NDL Delivery Consultant] Mark Wyatt. The majority of our time in the first 12 months was actually allocated to training, set-up and process implementation. 

“To anyone new to RPA projects and NDL, I’d say: use your Development Days. Really take advantage of all of the support NDL can offer and consider investing in further services if you don’t have the resources in-house. That was really helpful when we were completely new to this process – and now we don’t feel so new, we have more experience under our belt. Now we feel we can move forward, and we know which skills we need to develop for our next projects.”  

What difference have these technologies made so far? 

Gareth: “Since implementing RPA processes for the past year, we've identified benefits in:  

  • Clinical services  
  • Patient and staff safety 
  • Efficiency 
  • Compliance 
  • Customer service 
  • System performance 
  • Finances and costs 
  • Data quality 

“So that’s quite a few different areas, and that’s what we set out to do! Over the past 12 months, the NDL solution has proven to be effective for us, and it has greatly improved manual procedures, reducing our reliance on paper-based processes. The difference automation has made for staff, and subsequently our patients, has been clearly evidenced. So, we’ve been able to say, ‘Look, this technology is great, let’s keep using it.’” 

How does Mid Yorks plan to continue its RPA journey going forward? 

Gareth: “Well, we still have all the existing suggestions that people made to us! We have plenty of things to consider, and we’re getting our Oversight Group in place to determine which will be the best to tackle next. They will need to be scoped in and assessed, to ensure that those process definitely will be improved with the application of RPA.  

“And, as well as the Oversight Group, we’re also planning to recruit. We now know the technical skillset we’re looking for, so now we can make sure we have the right team in-house to take our future projects even further.  

“[NDL Delivery Consultant] Mark has helped us with five really excellent pieces of work, and we now have access to that RPA script going forward. We can use that script as a basis to help us learn how things are connected. I'm a programmer by heart, but I haven't done it for a very long time - which means I couldn't sit down and run my own programmes. But if I look at Mark’s work - I can read it, I can understand it and I can tweak it. And that's what we needed. We needed to see those examples.  

“The overall outcome of the project is that we’re now aspiring to fully embrace RPA technology. The aim is to fully engage all of our departments and teams and to increase the number of live automated processes. Now we have more experience, and with plans to recruit, our subsequent automation projects won’t need to be restricted to simple processes - as this has been the case for the initial 12-month period.  

“The number of potential processes identified for automation is circa 90, to date. We’ve identified opportunities for implementation of RPA in many other areas of the Trust, including HR, workforce processes, finance, and more – and now we have the experience in place, we’re really ready to put our all into those. Our next project, due to go live in the next couple weeks, focusses on automating and prioritising our high number of GP referrals to our hospitals.” 

If you’re considering adopting the use of RPA within your own public sector organisation, you can find plenty of use case examples over on our Success Stories page. If you’d like to discuss your own ideas, view a demo or to find out more about NDL’s digital transformation services, don’t hesitate to get in touch