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Neath Port Talbot

NPT Council improving services through Artificial Intelligence

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Neath Port Talbot Council is using intelligent automation and robotic technology to improve outcomes for residents and businesses across the whole of the county borough.

It has introduced Robotic Process Automation (RPA) to reduce the amount of staff time required to process payments and respond to Environmental Information Requests (EIRs).

This has reduced the cost per transaction for EIRs by 95%, and for ‘Faster Payments’ by 91%. The time taken to process ‘Faster Payments’ has been cut by half, and it now take five minutes instead of 20 to process an EIR. This has freed-up 500 hours per year in the Land Charge team, allowing officers to concentrate on more complex functions that requiring human decision-making.

Councillor Leanne Jones, Deputy Leader and Cabinet Member for Transformation, said: “From medical care, to chatbots, to driverless cars, artificial intelligence and automation technology is playing an ever increasing role our daily lives.

“The council has recognised this and transforming the way we deliver our services is one of the priorities in our smart & connected digital strategy.

“Over the coming months and years, we will be focussing on how we can support our communities and businesses to move forward from the pandemic through our Recover Reset Renew project. Making use of RPA will most certainly help with this.

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“The combination of faster services that take less officer time will benefit residents and businesses and is a responsible use of public resources.” 

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RPA works by creating a virtual workforce, able to mimic human processing of repetitive, labour-intensive processes. It increases efficiency, working 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, carrying out repetitive tasks with 100% accuracy.

The technology automatically receives EIR requests over email, enters data into the back-office system and generates a response to the requestor, reverting any complex requests to a council officer for checking and processing.

Meanwhile, the ‘Faster Payments’ solution automatically inputs data into the authority’s finance systems and conducts verification before payments are released.

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In developing and testing the RPA, Neath Port Talbot Council worked with digital services company Arvato, and officers from Finance and Legal services. 

Payments processing and Environmental Information Requests are the latest in a pipeline of areas of work to benefit from the roll out of RPA technology in the council, which was developed following a successful HR pilot to process DBS checks.


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Education

Plans for Neath Port Talbot’s first Welsh medium primary ‘starter school’ to be discussed by new council cabinet

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Plans for Neath Port Talbot’s first ever Welsh medium primary “starter school” at Neath Abbey are to be discussed by the Council’s new Rainbow Coalition Cabinet, who will meet for the first time this week.

The new school is part of the council’s strategy to increase Welsh medium education across the county borough.

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At the meeting on Wednesday (29 June) the Cabinet will be asked to approve moving to the next stage in the council’s plans to establish the new Welsh Medium Starter School in premises previously occupied by Abbey Primary School at St John’s Terrace, Neath Abbey.

If fully approved, the first pupils could move in next year.

The starter school model is used when establishing a new school, gradually allowing the facilities and staff to be used efficiently while the school grows to its full potential.

A consultation exercise regarding the school has already taken place with most people broadly in favour but with some concerns aired over traffic and the age of the school building.

Under the plans, £200,000 would be set aside for refurbishments and improvements including the provision of learning walls and digital equipment ensuring the school can deliver the new curriculum.

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Traffic would be monitored around the site and the school will not be fully occupied on opening but will grow year on year. Full occupancy is not expected until 2029.

Neath Port Talbot’s new rainbow coalition cabinet (Image: Neath Port Talbot Council)

This will be the first cabinet meeting of Neath Port Talbot’s new Plaid-Independent led Council, after the Independent, Plaid Cymru and Dyffryn Independent groups made an agreement to share power.

The Welsh Liberal Democrats and Green Party members will support the coalition via a confidence and supply agreement.

(Lead image: Neath Port Talbot Council)

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Swansea Bay NHS

£2.5m investment aims to help tackle hospital waiting lists in Swansea Bay by expanding care after surgery

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photo of woman lying in hospital bed

Swansea Bay University Health Board say a £2.5million investment in a new service that provides enhanced recovery support for patients following some types of complex surgery, will open the way for Singleton and Neath Port Talbot hospitals to do even more to tackle waiting lists.

In the wake of the two-year+ pandemic, pressure on waiting lists is higher than ever. Changes to how Swansea Bay University Health Board delivers services; and investment in staff and equipment, are aimed at bringing those waits down the health board says.

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One of the key investments is focused on expanding enhanced post-operative care facilities, which offer a step up from general ward care for patients who need extra support immediately after their operation.

This includes offering patients advanced pain relief, blood pressure monitoring and oxygen support in the immediate 24-48 hour post-operative period.

These facilities and services are not as intensive as high dependency or intensive care units. However, this additional layer of care will offer Swansea Bay hospitals greater flexibility over where that surgery can be carried out.

Opening these services in Singleton and Neath Port Talbot hospitals mean they will soon be able to offer a wider range of certain surgeries which are currently only carried out in Morriston Hospital.

Pankaj Kumar, Deputy Group Medical Director, Morriston Hospital and the project lead said: “In providing these enhanced post-operative care facilities, the health board is providing right-sized, fit for purpose, post-operative care that is responsive to every patients’ needs and is efficient in its delivery of care.

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“It will lead to improved patient care and better clinical outcomes for patients, and will also reduce the time they spend in hospital.”

The health board says that expanding these services will also ease the pressure on critical care units located on the Morriston site, and reduce the risk of a scheduled operation being cancelled at the last minute because an emergency patient needed the bed.

Singleton Hospital, which already carries out some complex surgery, will benefit from four enhanced post-operative recovery beds to begin with (eventual plan is for six beds) offering the enhanced post-operative recovery facilities particularly for colorectal and gynaecology patients.

Neath Port Talbot’s plan to become the Orthopaedic Centre of Excellence will be supported by enhanced recovery unit beds being introduced in phase two, with the commissioning of three beds. This development will also help urology surgical patients.

Morriston Hospital already has advanced post-operative care beds as part of post-anaesthetic care unit services to complement its higher level of critical care beds.

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UK Government

Regional plan to unlock £138m funding pot

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Aimed at securing funding worth nearly £138m to South West Wales over the next three years, a new regional investment plan is being produced.

The plan now being put together by the region’s four local authorities will unlock money already earmarked for Carmarthenshire, Neath Port Talbot, Pembrokeshire and Swansea as part of the UK Government’s Shared Prosperity Fund.

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In line with UK Government guidance, the plan is being developed through local strategic partnerships made up of public, private and voluntary sector organisations in each county.

To help further shape the plan, all four local authorities will be seeking feedback from local people and local businesses to find out which key themes are most important to their areas.

Based on the feedback, a final plan will then be submitted to the UK Government by August 1 for approval in the autumn.

Local authorities have not yet received any Shared Prosperity Fund money. Detailed guidance from the UK Government on how the funding will be distributed to projects is also yet to be confirmed, although the preference is for a competitive process.

Once the funding has been secured, each regional local authority will let its businesses and other organisations know how they can bid for funding.

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Cllr Robert Francis-Davies, Swansea Council’s Cabinet Member for Regeneration, Investment and Tourism, said: “This funding from the UK Government has already been set aside for each local authority area, although a regional investment plan is needed to unlock it.

“The plan is now being prepared, although it will soon be further informed by the key themes identified by local people as priorities in their respective local authority areas throughout South West Wales.

“Businesses and residents across the region will be kept updated on consultation opportunities. We’ll also let people know once the regional plan has been approved and businesses and other organisations can start bidding for funds.”

Cllr Gareth John, Carmarthenshire County Council’s Cabinet Member for Regeneration, Leisure, Culture and Tourism, said: “Carmarthenshire looks forward to this exciting funding opportunity and to work locally with our communities and our businesses in order to grow the economy. Maximising sustainable growth and jobs for our county is one of our key priorities.”

Cllr Martyn Peters, Neath Port Talbot Council’s Cabinet Member for Economic and Community Regeneration, said: “We have been working closely with our regional and local partners to ensure the funds that have been allocated to Neath Port Talbot make an impact for local people and businesses. We are strengthening our local partnership arrangements further so we can get the programme up and running as soon as the funds are unlocked.”

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The Shared Prosperity Fund is part of the UK Government’s levelling-up agenda.

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