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What is RITA?

RITA is an AI Chatbot powered by artificial intelligence, trained to understand and respond to users frequently asked questions, using natural language processing to learn from previous interactions and provide intelligent answers.

RITA is a virtual assistant that can help patients, families and carers with any questions they may have before attending the Cancer Centre for the very first time. She has been created by the Innovation team and trained with the help of clinicians, staff and patients to provide answers to a variety of queries and direct users to useful information.

To get in touch with the team behind the RITA project please contact the innovation department at:

Phone: 02920 615 888

Rita's Story

Our AI assistant is inspired by our very own receptionist! Rita has worked at Velindre for 19 years and only recently retired in December 2021 before returning in the new year to help out when needed with bank shifts. Rita found the role very rewarding, being the first line of communication and support to patients and their families when they are at their most vulnerable.

Rita received on average 1200 calls a day from main reception, answering many queries and connecting callers to the appropriate departments. With the deployment of our AI assistant, we aim to reduce this burden by providing the same helpful answers to patients and their families through our online user interface - 24 hours a day, 7 days a week!

You can see Rita at work in the ITV television series Hospital of Hope, a documentary on Velindre Cancer Centre.


Project Summary

To support cancer patients, carers and families in a way that offers empowerment, advice and independence for their care choices. The key areas of improvement were the lack of resources to support having good quality conversations anytime, anyplace and anywhere. Patients, carers and families often struggled to access helpful, high quality information to support their choices and decisions about their emotional, psychological and physical wellbeing.

Through the person-centred design thinking process, Velindre, in conjunction with Pfizer Oncology and IBM Watson, have developed the world’s first artificial intelligence enabled virtual assistant trained in oncology to proof of concept. In Phase I, RITA was trained to answer a small number of intents that demonstrate its capability. Intents are subcategories where a patient’s question could fall, that could range from breast cancer, practical admin, definitions etc.

In Phase II, with a re-focus following the COVID-19 pandemic, RITA has been developed for pilot encompassing the first visit to the cancer centre scenario, based on a total of 150-180 intents. These cover a number of the FAQs patients, carers and families have about their very first visit to Velindre along with the support services, facilities, resources and more available to them. Phase II has retained the previous clinical work completed in Phase I with the intention to deploy these in future development work.


We have worked with a wide variety of partners to collaborate on this project which is reflected in the image below.




Once you have tested the chatbot, you can leave your feedback and suggestions in the form below or when prompted within the application.