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NHS receives £21 million fund for artificial intelligence tools



The Health and Social Care Secretary has announced today that the NHS will receive £21 million in funding for AI technology which will help provide quicker diagnosis for conditions like stroke.

NHS trusts will be able to bid for funding known as the AI Diagnostic Fund to accelerate the deployment of the most promising AI tools across hospitals to treat individuals quicker this winter.

This additional funding comes as the government commits to deploying AI decision support tools in all stroke networks by the end of 2023 to help treat strokes through improved diagnosis and access to treatments.

The Health and Social Care Secretary states the government is committed to rolling out AI stroke-diagnosis technology to 100 per cent of stroke networks by the end of 2023, rising from the current figure of 86 per cent.

The funding announced by Health and Social Care Secretary, Steve Barclay comes just before the NHS’s 75th birthday.

The Health and Social Care Secretary, says: “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.

“As we celebrate the NHS’s 75th birthday and look ahead to the future, I’m focused on adopting the latest cutting-edge technology across our health and care system to ensure we can continue to deliver the best care for our patients and cut waiting times, which is one of the government’s five priorities.”

The use of AI in the NHS has already proved to have a positive impact on outcomes for patients, with AI in some cases halving the time for stroke victims to get the treatment they need by assisting doctors to diagnose stroke quicker, tripling the chance of patients living independently after a stroke.

Professor Stephen Powis, NHS national medical director, says: “The NHS is already harnessing the benefits of AI across the country in helping to catch and treat major diseases earlier, as well as better managing waiting lists so patients can be seen quicker. 

“As we approach our milestone 75th birthday, this is another example of how NHS is continuing its proud history of adopting the latest proven technology to deliver better care for patients, and better value for taxpayers.”

The £21 million funding is open for bids for any AI diagnostic tool that trusts wish to deploy, however, it will have to represent value for money for the funding to be approved.

The government has already invested £123 million into 86 AI technologies, which is helping patients by supporting stroke diagnosis, screening, cardiovascular monitoring and managing conditions at home.

Secretary of State for Science, Innovation, and Technology Chloe Smith, says: “Improving diagnosis and speeding up treatments for patients through AI is a game-changer.

“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.

“Nothing could be a more fitting celebration of its 75th anniversary than a demonstration of how the NHS remains at the cutting edge of modern day technology and innovation.”

Dr Deb Lowe, National Clinical Director for Stroke Medicine, NHS England, says:

“The use of AI decision support software in the initial stages of stroke care means patients get interventions quicker, reducing the likelihood of disability and saving the brains.

“We are already seeing the positive impact of AI decision support software on stroke care, where rapid assessment and treatment are of the essence, and we now have real world evidence of the benefit for NHS patients – “ as we approach the NHS’s 75th birthday and look ahead to the future, funding this technology will be key to reducing disability and saving brains.”

Dr Katharine Halliday, President of the Royal College of Radiologists, says:

“At a time when diagnostic services are under strain, it is critical that we embrace innovation that could boost capacity – and so we welcome the Government’s announcement of a £21 million fund to purchase and deploy AI diagnostic tools.

“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.”

The recent announcement of the new AI & Digital Regulation Service will help to provide NHS staff find the right information and guidance when it comes to deploying AI devices safely. This also makes it easier for developers and adopters of AI to understand regulations governing AI in the NHS and is saving them time in bringing products to the market.