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NHS gets National Artificial Intelligence Lab

08/08/19

Mark Say Managing Editor

Health Secretary Matt Hancock has announced that the Government is providing £250 million for a National Artificial Intelligence Lab to support the NHS.

Doctor pressing digital icons on screen

It will sit within NHSX, the body recently set up within the Department for Health and Social Care (DHSC) to oversee digitisation in healthcare, and operated with the Accelerated Access Collaborative (AAC), which brings together industry, the NHS, regulators and patient representatives to promote innovation in the sector.

The AI Lab will provide a forum for academics, specialists and technology companies to harness the technology for healthcare.

Practical application

NHS England chief executive Simon Stevens said: “Carefully targeted AI is now ready for practical application in health services, and the investment announced today is another step in the right direction to help the NHS become a world leader in using these important technologies.

“In the first instance it should help personalise NHS screening and treatments for cancer, eye disease and a range of other conditions, as well as freeing up staff time, and our new NHS AI Lab will ensure the benefits of NHS data and innovation are fully harnessed for patients in this country."

DHSC highlighted a number of areas on which the AI Lab could focus its efforts, including: improving cancer screening; using predictive models to estimate future needs of beds, drugs, devices and surgeries; identifying which patients could be more easily treated in the community; and identifying those most at risk of certain diseases.

Dr Nicola Strickland, president of the Royal College of Radiologists, said practitioners could use AI algorithms to asset their work, pointing out that they are already using automated speech recognition systems.

The effort to harness AI for the NHS has been gathering steam in recent months. In February the DHSC published a code for its use and in June Bradford Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust appointed a head of clinical artificial intelligence.

Image from GOV.UK, Open Government Licence v3.0

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