ARTIFICIAL intelligence (AI) is being used in a number Somerset doctors' surgeries to highlight patients with complex needs.

The system is being trialled in four GP practices in the county and will also be used to identify people at risk of hospital admission or who rarely contact the surgery.

They will then be contacted by health workers who can provide preventative care, such as support to prevent falls.

Elsewhere, AI is being used by the NHS in Buckinghamshire to track people’s eating and drinking habits in their homes in a bid to prevent them ending up in hospital.

It comes as the health service works to get ahead of the busy winter season by reducing the number of “avoidable” admissions.

The pilot scheme aims cutting "avoidable" hospital admissions, involves AI technology being connected to electronic sensors placed on kettles and fridges to spot changes.

Concerns are flagged to care teams who reach out to patients to stop the situation escalating.

NHS England chief executive Amanda Pritchard, who grew up in Taunton, said: “This suite of tech and data solutions ahead of winter demonstrates how NHS staff across the country are innovating every step of the way, maximising the use of the latest technology and AI to help patients but also significantly reducing the number of avoidable A&E attendances.

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“They are identifying the most at-risk or vulnerable patients and wider issues affecting their health, so teams can get to them early and help avoid an unnecessary visit to hospital – not only are these measures better for patients who can be cared for at home where they feel most comfortable but they are good for the NHS too, particularly when we know that this winter is likely to be incredibly challenging.”

Last week it emerged that 7.7 million people are on NHS waiting lists in England, the highest since records began in 2007.

Ms Pritchard added: “NHS staff across the country are already feeling the pressure with record demand for A&E and ambulance services – and so these new innovations being rolled out by NHS teams are an extra and welcome addition to our winter toolkit, with more call handlers and more beds already in place.”

A number of measures were announced during summer to put the NHS on a stable footing for the coming winter.

These included NHS England planning to give cash incentives to local hospitals that “overachieve” on performance measures such as A&E waiting times and ambulance handover times.

It also said it would introduce social care “traffic control centres” to help speed up hospital discharges, as well as having more ambulances on the road and extra hospital beds.

In September the Government announced a £200million “winter resilience” fund, while last month the use of virtual wards – also known as hospitals at home – was expanded to patients with heart failure.

Virtual wards allow patients to remain at home while receiving care from clinical staff, who use apps or wearable technology to monitor them remotely.

We have approached the NHS in Somerset for further details.