Credit: Brother UK
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Mandie Lavin, Director General of the BHTA

Following research by the Institute for Public Policy Research about how automation could save the NHS billions, the British Healthcare Trades Association’s Director General Mandie Lavin discusses how robots have changed lives in various sectors.

The robots are coming and they will be here any minute now!

I have chosen the theme of technology for my first article for AT Today magazine as in my role as the new Director General of the BHTA, I have been struck early on by the innovation and the commitment of our members to pushing boundaries and finding different solutions to challenges faced by members of the public.

The rise of technology has revolutionised even the simplest of household tasks, baking a cake now requires an expensive Food Aid with complex attachments and various functionalities. When I was a little girl, there was a day when I would come home from school and my mother would whisk together some eggs, flour, butter and sugar and lo and behold! We had made a cake.

Nevertheless, the march of time and technology is becoming more rapid and every profession, service provider and manufacturer is looking inward to see just what the impact of this might be on future practice, demand for services or, indeed, on pricing. Artificial intelligence (AI), robotics and now, the potential for robots to learn empathy from mirroring human behaviour, is broadening the horizon of possibilities.

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In the legal world and especially at the Bar, the potential for advocacy robots is still far away but steps towards formulaic legal pathways for advice giving and problem-solving is becoming a reality. The ability for the technology used in Siri and Cortana to produce other AI bots is being mobilised. Robots can already have conversations with humans about problems and issues and predict outcomes, including success rates, for different types of cases.

The “Billybot” is an online tool that allows the public to find barristers; they have a conversation with the public, work out the problem, source a barrister and then get quotes from barristers for their services. Could a similar model work for members of the public sourcing services and aids for assisted living?

The terms and conditions that businesses have are hugely variable, from templates to tailoring, could the “robot lawyer” become part of routine business use?

“Billybot” and other technological solutions that affect the traditional models of lawyering and across aspects of healthcare could find their way into our daily lives. Robots can lift people and can demonstrate very fine dexterity in the placing of pins, screws and positioning of endoscopic devices.

Could nurses become robots? Will community care involve self-driving cars? What developments will you see in your business?

I don’t have the answers, just some of the questions; is there a robot around here that I can ask?

Alternatively, answers on a postcard.

Mandie Lavin

(I am not a robot!)


The BHTA represents almost 500 companies, all of whom commit to the BHTA Code of Practice, the only one in this industry to be approved by The Chartered Trading Standards Institute. BHTA member companies operate to higher standards of customer protection than the law requires.

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