£21m for AI diagnosis on NHS

NHS Trusts can apply to AI Diagnostic Fund to support increased use of imaging and decision-making tools to ensure quicker diagnosis of conditions including cancers, strokes and heart conditions. 

AI technology is already having an impact on outcomes for patients in the UK. For example, lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer death. The most common way to detect the condition is by analysing chest X-rays, and more than 600,000 such chest X-rays are conducted each month in England alone. Obviously, that’s a lot of X-rays to look through. AI analysis can speed up the process, supporting clinicians to diagnose those with cancer earlier – which can significantly increase their chances of survival.

human skeleton, human body, anatomy

Or there’s the way AI tech can learn from the experience of others. This week, the BBC’s Newsnight reported on a team at Addenbrooke’s Hospital, Cambridge, which as been working with Microsoft and a program called ‘InnerEye’ to reduce the time taken to treat patients with head, neck and prostate cancers based on data held on patients who have had the same condition.

‘Our consultant colleagues preferred to start with the work of the AI than even the work of their consulting colleagues,’ Dr Raj Jena was quoted as saying.

The technology can be applied to conditions other than cancer, too. AI has been shown in some cases to halve the time it takes to get a diagnosis of stroke, which in turns means treatment starts more quickly. This has been shown to triple the chance of those who suffer a stroke then going on to live independently. In announcing the new funding, the government has also committed to roll out AI stroke diagnosis tech to 100% of stroke networks by the end of the year – up from the current 86%. 

The hope is to increase the use of such tech to help more patients, and to find new, beneficial ways to use it. The £21m funding announced by the government will be available to bids for any AI diagnostic tool that NHS trusts want to deploy, encouraging innovative use of the tech. Of course, trusts will need to show that their bid represents value before funding is approved. 

Steve Barclay, Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, announced the new arrangements to coincide with the 75th anniversary of the NHS. Mr Barclay says: ‘Artificial intelligence is already transforming the way we deliver healthcare and AI tools are already making a significant impact across the NHS in diagnosing conditions earlier, meaning people can be treated more quickly. 

‘As we celebrate the NHS’s 75th birthday and look ahead to the future, I’m focused on adopting the latest cutting-edge technology across our health and care system to ensure we can continue to deliver the best care for our patients and cut waiting times, which is one of the government’s five priorities.’ 

Professor Stephen Powis, National Medical Director of the NHS, adds: ‘The NHS is already harnessing the benefits of AI across the country in helping to catch and treat major diseases earlier, as well as better managing waiting lists so patients can be seen quicker. As we approach our milestone 75th birthday, this is another example of how NHS is continuing its proud history of adopting the latest proven technology to deliver better care for patients, and better value for taxpayers.’ 

In related news, healthcare robots developed in Scotland are taking part in a three-month pilot scheme in Finland.

Photo by PublicDomainPictures


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