Simon Perks, Head of Robotics and AI at Agilisys, explores why the public sector shouldn’t wait to bring robots into the technology toolkit.

Despite the lifting of the cap on pay, staff and skills shortages remain a major concern across the public sector. From NHS trust administrators to council planning departments, organisations up and down the country are struggling to attract and retain enough staff. At the same time, the UK’s rising population—growing by 400,000 people a year—is putting ever more pressure on public services.

In an environment of tightening budgets, changing demographics and rising expectations, it’s critical for the public sector to unlock the ability to do more with less. New technologies, in particular, Robotic Process Automation (RPA), have a major role to play—enabling organisations to save time, effort and money, while also improving staff satisfaction and citizen outcomes.

A key application of RPA is to automate repetitive and time-consuming business support processes, which largely focus on administration and are heavily dependant on people. By doing this, public sector organisations can free up around 30% of their staff, who can then refocus their time on other more valuable, important and people-orientated tasks. Recent research also suggests that RPA has the potential to slash costs by up to 80%. Better still, RPA doesn’t make mistakes—ensuring greater accuracy and eliminating wasted time and effort.

Technology is evolving faster than ever, and the need for transformation is inevitable. We’ve identified 30 key business support processes to automate today—spanning human resources, patient services, finance & accounting, and IT service management. Why wait to explore these new possibilities?

Now’s the time to take action and start reaping the proven benefits of automation in tasks like compliance reporting, customer notifications, order processing and supplier management. We’re seeing clear signs of organisations doing just that.

We recently worked on automating the processes used by a local authority’s revenue and benefits department. With the council facing the largest backlog of requests it had ever seen, we determined that automating student exemption and council tax discounts would drive considerable cost and resource savings. Through RPA, we freed staff to work on the council’s backlog of income-generating enquiries, while also reducing manual processing times by an average of 80%, providing the council with an estimated FTE savings of over £200,000 per annum and enabling customers to be notified about application outcomes much more quickly.

RPA is also helping to revolutionise business support processes in the healthcare sector. For example, one of our pilot programmes just found that we could reduce the time it takes to assess claim forms from 15 days to just 24 hours. Our Virtual Worker slashed form processing times by around 75%—where a person would need 12 minutes on average, the automated solution only takes about three. Facing some 1500 digital applications daily, the team can save about 300 person-hours per day thanks to RPA.

By embracing automation, the public sector can work faster, smarter and more cost-effectively, while transforming the staff and service-user experience for the better. Essential services can operate around-the-clock, process-driven tasks take far less time, and staff can resolve more problems, more quickly and more effectively.

Automating repetitive activities won’t replace the ingenuity, intuition and compassion we need from public sector employees. It will simply allow them to use these very human qualities at work more, rather than pouring time into business services processes. So, while we focus more on people, why not leave the nuts and bolts to the robots?

You can discover more about RPA and how it can support the public sector by reading our guide. Alternatively, get in touch to see how automation can help your teams save time, effort and money while enhancing staff satisfaction and improving citizen experiences.