NHS England to set up £250m national AI lab

Chloe Kent 9 August 2019 (Last Updated August 9th, 2019 12:07)

NHS England is setting up a national artificial intelligence (AI) laboratory with a cash injection of £250m.

NHS England to set up £250m national AI lab
Boris Johnson has claimed that AI will transform care by streamlining administrative tasks and improving disease detection. Credit: Shutterstock

NHS England is setting up a national artificial intelligence (AI) laboratory with a cash injection of £250m.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has claimed that AI will transform care by streamlining administrative tasks and improving disease detection.

The lab aims to bring together the industry’s best academics, specialists and technology companies to work on big developments in AI such as earlier cancer detection, new dementia treatments and more personalised 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.”

AI has been used to detect early signs of melanoma, demystify the contraceptive pill and decode mental health.

While the technology is not available across all UK hospitals, some are now using it to predict cancer survival and cut the number of missed appointments. An AI developed by University College London is able to identify patients who are likely not to turn up to ensure they are given a reminder phone call.

The NHS is also investing in AI-powered apps and implementing technology which will allow NHS 111 non-emergency enquiries to be managed by robots.

However, research by OpenText has revealed widespread uncertainty among the UK population at the prospect of consigning their health to an AI. Only 26% of UK consumers believed a diagnostic algorithm would be able to reach the correct conclusion, and a further 41% were unsure if they would trust the medical diagnosis given to them by an AI.

OpenText also found that 21% of UK consumers believed Brexit would restrict the country’s ability to innovate in this area.

However, the development has been cautiously welcomed by health and tech experts, who were eager to see how AI could be implemented in an administrative capacity.

Linguistic automation company EBO.ai’s CEO Dr Gege Gatt said: “Fresh funding for artificial intelligence in the NHS is a welcome investment, but it’s important that we look beyond clinical treatment alone. The health service is currently being overwhelmed by cumbersome administration, which is an unjustifiable waste of resources when technology such as AI can help lighten the load.”

This announcement comes just days after Johnson promised an extra £1.8bn towards the maintenance and rebuilding of hospitals, a project with an estimated total cost of £6bn.