NHS trusts will be able to bid for £21m newly announced funding to deploy AI across hospitals, the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) has said.
The ring-fenced AI Diagnostic Fund is intended to support trusts to implement AI imaging and decision support tools to help speed up diagnoses for conditions like cancers, strokes and heart conditions.
This will include the use of AI tools to analyse chest x-rays in diagnosing lung cancer.
Health secretary Steve Barclay also committed to rolling out AI stroke-diagnosis technology to all stroke networks by the end of 2023. Currently these are in place across 86% of networks.
He said: ‘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.’
Trusts will be invited to bid for the funding but must demonstrate how their proposed AI tool would represent good value for money.
Chloe Smith, secretary of state for science, innovation and technology, said: ‘The application of AI across the NHS is supported by our balanced regulatory approach and has the potential to be truly transformative, both for patients and our unrivalled health and social care workforce both now and in the decades to come.’
And Dr Katharine Halliday, president of the Royal College of Radiologists said: ‘All doctors want to give patients the best possible care. This starts with a timely diagnosis, and crucially, catching disease at the earliest point. There is huge promise in AI, which could save clinicians time by maximising our efficiency, supporting our decision-making and helping identify and prioritise the most urgent cases. Together with a highly trained and expert radiologist workforce, AI will undoubtedly play a significant part in the future of diagnostics.’
Commenting on the funding, Rory Deighton, director of the acute network at the NHS Confederation welcomed the funding as a means of cutting NHS waiting lists.
‘Leaders will, however, know that to really utilise the opportunities AI can offer, we must ensure that there is focus on collaboration between systems, transparency and appropriate data sharing across health, adult social care, and public health,’ he said.
‘Members will be keen to see fast release of the available funding and hope the approval process is slick and quick, so they can put it to good use as soon as possible, enabling them to be as resilient as they can be well before the tough season of winter hits.’