National AI Lab to address ‘some of the biggest challenges in healthcare’

A new ‘National Artificial Intelligence’ Lab will bring together the industry’s best academics, specialists, and technology companies ‘to work on some of the biggest challenges in health and care’, including earlier cancer detection, new dementia treatments and more personalised care, the Department of Health and Social Care has announced.

Stressing that ‘AI’ is already being developed in some hospitals, for example to successfully predict cancer survival rates and reduce the number of missed appointments, the Department said the AI Lab’s work could:

  • improve cancer screening by speeding up the results of tests, including mammograms, brain scans, eye scans, and heart monitoring.
  • use predictive models to better estimate future needs of beds, drugs, devices, or surgeries.
  • identify which patients could be more easily treated in the community, reducing the pressure on the NHS, and helping patients receive treatment closer to home.
  • identify patients most at risk of diseases such as heart disease or dementia, allowing earlier diagnosis, and cheaper, more focused, ‘personalised prevention’.
  • build systems to detect people at risk of post-operative complications, infections, or requiring follow-up from clinicians, ‘improving patient safety and reducing readmission rates’.
  • upskill the NHS workforce so they can use AI systems for day-to-day tasks.
  • inspect algorithms already used by the NHS to increase the standards of AI safety, ‘making systems fairer, more robust, and ensuring patient confidentiality is protected’.
  • automate routine admin tasks to free up clinicians so more time can be spent with patients.

The lab will sit within NHSX, the new organisation that will oversee the digitisation of the health and care system, in partnership with the Accelerated Access Collaborative. The investment will, the Department said, ‘support the ambitions in the NHS Long Term Plan, which includes pledges to use AI to help clinicians eliminate variations in care’.

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 ‘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.”