An artificial intelligence (AI) project being used to tackle hospital backlogs is in the running for a Health Service Journal (HSJ) award.

Frimley Health have been named as a finalist in the awards after its digital assistant 'Dora' has carried out successful surgical follow-up calls to cataract patients.

In doing so, the health service has been successfully tackling a growing backlog.

Usually a nurse-led call, the AI system handles the routine clinical conversation and phones and assesses patients after their operation.

Since beginning operation, 'Dora' has freed up hundreds of hours of nursing time within the Trust’s eye department.

The awards received 300 entries for this year’s Digital Awards and Frimley Health is proud to have been shortlisted. 

“Patients love it. We’ve had one who wanted to take Dora to dinner, while another wrote a poem for her,” said Dr Lorraine North, head of ophthalmology strategy.

She added that Dora makes recommendations, not decisions, and that her work is checked by human clinicians. “There will always be a human element, as we have to maintain oversight.”

The Trust handles a high volume of cataract surgery, with 5,000 procedures carried out a year.

Pressure on resources, already stretched by the pandemic, saw a mounting backlog of follow-up calls develop.

A month after launching 'Dora', the surgery-to-call time was cut from 10 to just two weeks, with the backlog of calls cleared.

The AI system has made more than 2,100 surgical follow-up calls to patients since the project began in December 2022.

Winners will be announced at the awards ceremony in Manchester on June 6.