A quarter of a million public sector jobs could be replaced by computers over the next 13 years, according to a new report from a right-wing think tank.
Administrators in Whitehall and the NHS are particularly vulnerable to automation, the report said, with 130,000 and 90,000 jobs respectively at risk.
With a further 24,000 GP reception positions susceptible to automation, the government could save a total of £4.3bn a year, according to Reform.
But the march of the machines doesn’t stop with desk jobs. Reform said roles carried out by doctors, nurses and the police could be automated too.
It singled out advances in robot-assisted key hole surgery, the administration of non-intravenous meds, crowd-monitoring and facial recognition.
Between 13 and 31 per cent of doctors’ roles could be automated, depending on speciality, alongside 30 per cent nursing activities, Reform said.
The report’s authors even called for the introduction of an Uber-style “gig” economy in the public sector.
They envisage workers supporting themselves through a series of jobs acquired through online platforms.
Alexander Hitchcock, the report’s co-author, told the Press Association: “Such a rapid advance in the use of technology may seem controversial, and any job losses must be handled sensitively.
“But the result would be public services that are better, safer, smarter and more affordable.”
Some critics fear that a drive to automate public sector jobs will pave the way for privatisation.
The Royal Free Hospital Trust in London has already signed a five year deal with Google to explore ways AI can reduce the administrative burden on doctors.
And Uber is pitching for public subsidies to fill the gaps in the UK’s transport network, as Business Insider reported last month.
The tech commentator Evgeny Morozov wrote in an article for the Observer last year that only a cash-strapped public sector finds smart technology sexy.