ONE in six public sector workers in Scotland will be replaced by a robot or machine within a decade-and-a-half, experts have predicted.
A report for Deloitte estimates that 88,000 jobs will be lost due to 'automation', with NHS, care workers and transport staff potentially in the firing line.
The NHS is planning to increase the use of technology in patient care, using monitors to check on patients at home and seeing consultations with doctors carried out through internet link.
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There is also the potential for administrative roles such data entry jobs to be lost to technology, Deloitte believes, while there is the potential for driverless trains to be rolled out in future.
Angela Mitchell, Partner and Local Public Services Lead at Deloitte, said: "The most likely roles to be affected will be administrative and operative positions, which is in line with what we expect to see in other areas of the economy.
"The flipside will be that automation can complement other positions within the public sector – reducing the administrative burden and opening up the opportunity for more efficient services. We’re already seeing this in hospitals, for example, where sensor technology is being used to monitor vital signs, freeing up nurses to spend time interacting with patients in greater need."
Mike Kirby, Scottish Secretary of the public sector union Unison, said new technology had to be introduced "sensitively" and employers needed to be wary of industries pushing new IT in light of a string of expensive computer fiascos in the NHS, police and other public services.
He said: "We’re not Luddites. We appreciate that there has to be technological change. But that has to be worked through between employers, providers and trade unions.
"It might seem a simple solution, but it can exacerbate problems, especially given morale is low and so many people and so much expertise have been lost over the last couple of years."
Interviews with public sector leaders in Scotland, in Deloitte's State of the State 2016-17 report, also found Brexit had raised the prospect of a second referendum on independence, and that this was adding to uncertainty.
The director of one national public body said her view of the next five years was now "muddier" than she would want, with Brexit "adding layers of uncertainty and complexity."
A council director added: "The independence referendum saw stagnation and we might be entering that period again. All the other stuff will get pushed down the priority list."