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Government to invest £50m in artificial intelligence technology to improve early cancer detection


By Awil Mohamoud
Reporter
1 September 2020

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The NHS will receive £50m to invest in technology such as artificial intelligence (AI) in a bid to speed up the diagnosis of deadly diseases like cancer, the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) has announced. 

This funding will be used to scale up the work of the existing digital pathology and imaging AI centres of excellence, which were launched in 2018 to develop digital tools designed to improve diagnosis of cancer, it said. 

Three centres, based in Coventry, Leeds and London, will receive a share of the money to deliver digital upgrades to pathology and imaging services across an additional 38 NHS trusts.  

Professor Reza Razavi, director of the London Medical Imaging and AI Centre for Value-Based Healthcare, said the additional funding will help the centre ‘continue its mission to spearhead innovations that will have a significant impact on our patients and the wider NHS’.

He added: ‘Artificial intelligence technology provides significant opportunities to improve diagnostics and therapies as well as reduce administrative costs. 

‘With machine learning, we can use existing data to help clinicians better predict when disease will occur, diagnosing and treating it earlier, and personalising treatments, which will be less resource intensive and provides better health outcomes for our patients.’

The Government said the £50m boost forms part of its commitment to increase survival rates and for three-quarters of all cancers to be detected at an early stage by 2028. 

Matt Hancock, health secretary, said: ‘Technology is a force for good in our fight against the deadliest diseases. It can transform and save lives through faster diagnosis, free up clinicians to spend time with their patients and make every pound in the NHS go further.

‘I am determined we do all we can to save lives by spotting cancer sooner. Bringing the benefits of artificial intelligence to the frontline of our health service with this funding is another step in that mission. We can support doctors to improve the care we provide and make Britain a world-leader in this field.’

The Government said this funding also supports the UK’s economic recovery from Covid-19, by helping to ‘build a British diagnostics industry at scale’. 

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