In an announcement today, Prime Minister Boris Johnson has given a £250m hand-out to be invested in AI technology, which he said will lead the way in early cancer detection and spotting signs of dementia.
The Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) said the money was new capital funding from the Treasury and will start to be spent from 2021.
This comes as the health secretary also announced plans to invest in a national artificial intelligence lab.
AI in primary care
The DHSC also said that although the money is not earmarked for primary care, the lab may develop AI systems to help GPs and pharmacists.
One example could be artificial intelligence that predicts which patients are most likely to miss appointments, which then allows staff to follow up with targeted phone calls, which is said to save £2-£3 per appointment.
The lab will oversee the digitisation of healthcare and will reside within NHSX, in partnership with the Accelerated Access Collaborative, a new industry body focused on innovation in the healthcare sector.
Possible projects the lab could develop include using AI to speed up test results for cancer screening and detect patients at risk of post-operative complications.
‘A step in the right direction’
NHS England chief executive Simon Stevens said the AI lab will harness NHS data and benefit patients as well as free up staff time.
He 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.’
‘On the cusp of health revolution’
Health Secretary Matt Hancock said: ’We are on the cusp of a huge health tech revolution that could transform patient experience by making the NHS a truly predictive, preventive and personalised health and care service.
‘I am determined to bring the benefits of technology to patients and staff, so the impact of our NHS Long Term Plan and this immediate, multimillion-pound cash injection are felt by all. It’s part of our mission to make the NHS the best it can be.
‘The experts tell us that because of our NHS and our tech talent, the UK could be the world leader in these advances in healthcare, so I’m determined to give the NHS the chance to be the world leader in saving lives through artificial intelligence and genomics.’
‘Boosting the frontline’
Mr Johnson said: ’The NHS is revered for the world-class care it provides every day – a treasured institution that showcases the very best of Britain.
‘But it is also leading the way in harnessing new technology to treat and prevent, from earlier cancer detection to spotting the deadly signs of dementia.
‘Today’s funding is not just about the future of care though. It will also boost the frontline by automating admin tasks and freeing up staff to care for patients.’
It comes as DHSC introduced plans for 5 million patients to have their genomes sequenced in the next five years.