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AI rapid research fund to tackle NHS winter crisis

AI rapid research fund to tackle NHS winter crisis
By Jess Hacker
24 January 2023

As many as 16 rapid research projects have been awarded £800,000 funding to assess how to ease winter pressures on the NHS using artificial intelligence.

From understanding the effects of cold homes on health to reducing ambulance waiting times, the 16 projects will cover a range of data-driven approaches to pin-point and avoid acute pressures in the health and care system.

Launched by Health Data Research UK (HDR UK) and funded by the National Institute for Health and Care Research (NIHR), the projects will apply rapid-response approaches utilised during the Covid-19 pandemic to ensure results gain quick traction in policy and clinical care.

To this end, some research projects will focus on the immediate issue of the cost-of-living crisis.

One project will investigate the impact that cold and damp homes has on people’s health, with the intention of informing policy to protect the most vulnerable and avoid or lessen interaction with the NHS.

Dr Martin Chapman, from King’s College London and who is leading on a project to understand the impact of the cost-of-living, said: ‘Living in cold, damp and mouldy homes leads to chest conditions in children and mental health problems in adolescents, and rising energy costs mean more people than ever are living with heat poverty.

‘We’re investigating the effectiveness of interventions like support for energy bills on the health of young people by using Artificial Intelligence to digitally mimic their household environments and evaluate the impact of simulated interventions. This will help guide future policy changes to improve health conditions, reduce inequalities, and in turn reduce pressures on NHS services.’

Another project will use machine learning to predict Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV) peaks which can cause serious illness in young children and put pressure on paediatric intensive care units.

Dr Mary De Silva, deputy chief scientific advisor at the DHSC, said: ‘Research plays a key role in helping us predict and understand the pressures our health and social care services face. Winter is an especially busy time for the NHS, and these projects aim to harness the power of routinely collected healthcare data to understand what is causing the pressures, and crucially to provide new solutions that can be swiftly turned into working practice.’

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