Government announces £250m fund for NHS AI

Health Secretary Matt Hancock has revealed plans to launch a National Artificial Intelligence Lab for the NHS. This is part of a £250 million investment in the burgeoning technology. The aim is to deliver quicker breast screening results and improve predictions for drug and bed usage. The lab will sit within the new tech unit, NHSX.

However, the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) says they will not begin to spend the money until the 2020/21 financial year.

According to the DHSC, the AI could identify patients who are at high risk of life-threatening diseases. It could also help the NHS workforce gain more skills and use the AI systems while at work. Academic, specialists and technology companies can work with the lab to “harness the power of AI to improve the health of lives and patients”.

In a statement, the prime minister Boris Johnson said: “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.

“My task to ensure the NHS has the funding it needs to make a real difference to the lives of staff and patients. Transforming care through artificial intelligence is a perfect illustration of that.”

The government said the lab could bring numerous benefits, including improved cancer screening, using predictive models to estimate the required beds, drugs and other resources. It would also be able to identify which patients are most at risk of diseases such as dementia for earlier diagnosis.

Hancock, who has made technology the centre of his brief for the NHS, added: “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.”

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