15 July 2021

We have launched the pilot of our new and exciting Virtual Assistant feature on the website, which will use artificial intelligence to help connect service users with staff.

If you regularly attend the following services, please don’t hesitate to try this new, easy-to-access feature…

Psychotherapy Department (City and Hackney)

Newham Child Development Service

Dunstable CMHT (also known as Beacon House CMHT)


Not sure what this means for you?

If you’re a service user, this new digital tool will appear on your screen when you look for your service through our website. When you type into the textbox, the Virtual Assistant will use artificial intelligence (which basically means learning and problem-solving) to respond to your queries. You can view, cancel or change an appointment easily and quickly, without even picking up the phone!

If you still require or prefer phone assistance, not to worry, you still can. You just won’t have to listen to the same piece of music on hold for quite as long!

And for staff, this will massively reduce the amount of calls you’ll need to take per day. With the pandemic reducing footfall in waiting rooms, our admin staff have been taking calls non-stop and responding to service users’ requests as quickly as they can, but it often means people have to wait. With this added feature, people won’t need to call for basic needs, allowing admin staff to work on more detailed requests.

And what does this mean for ELFT?

You might not realise that the NHS has a hidden backlog of 14 million appointments that were delayed due to the pandemic. In the next couple of months, approximately £600 million will be spent on rescheduling these appointments. Virtual Assistants have proven to reduce the operating costs typically associated with appointment management and admin, improve quality of care by refocusing the effort of staff members, increase patient involvement and satisfaction and assist in making efficient use of precious clinical time. By working on this new pathway, ELFT is prioritising service user care and becoming frontrunners in the digital transformation of the NHS.

If you’d like to learn more about Ali the AI Virtual Assistant, please watch Shona Richards, the Digital Lead on this project, speak at a recent webinar, and please visit our FAQs webpage.

Any feedback is welcome and can be sent to shona.richards@nhs.net !