UK Health and Social Care Secretary Steve Barclay has allocated £21m ($26.7m) to the NHS to fund artificial intelligence (AI) technology for the diagnosis and treatment of patients, ahead of the NHS’s 75th birthday.
The AI Diagnostic Fund will support the most promising AI imaging and support tools. NHS trusts will be able to apply to the fund, where there is a need and value for money, to help diagnose patients more quickly for conditions such as cancers, strokes and heart conditions.
Some of the funds will be aimed at stroke care. Barclay has committed to rolling out AI stroke diagnosis technology to 100% of stroke networks by the end of this year, up from the current 86%.
In some cases, AI halves the time for patients to get treatment by helping doctors diagnose stroke faster. This has been shown to triple the chance of patients living independently.
The fund will also cover AI-driven chest X-rays, a prominent tool to diagnose lung cancer, the leading cause of death in the UK.
More than 600,000 chest X-rays are performed each month in England. Extra Diagnostic AI tools will support the diagnosis of cancer patients earlier, improving patient outcomes.
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The UK Government has already invested £123m ($156m) into 86 AI technologies to help patients by supporting stroke diagnosis, screening, cardiovascular monitoring and managing conditions at home.
It also recently announced the new AI and Digital Regulation Service to guide NHS staff to implement AI devices safely, making it easier for developers and adopters of AI to understand NHS regulations and save time in bringing products to market.
Barclay said: “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 NHS currently spends £10bn ($12.7bn) a year on medical technology. AI is expected to become a key driver of medical device innovation. GlobalData Medical Device analyst Alexandra Murdoch notes that AI is growing in several fields globally, with the market expected to reach $ 93bn in 2023, up 12% from 2022.