Government promises NHS to benefit from AI

Leeds, Oxford, Coventry, Glasgow and London to be sites for new healthcare technology ‘centres of excellence’ in a bid to improve patient care and speed up diagnosis

Posted 8 November 2018 by Gary Flood

Five new technology centres of excellence to try and harness the benefits of medical AI for the National Health Service backed by £50m of new investment were announced by the Government yesterday.

The aim: develop medical treatments that both speed up treatments and free medical staff up so they can spend more time caring for patients – while by exploring the potential of large-scale genomics and image analysis, the centres also hope to uncover a greater understanding of how complex diseases develop.

“Artificial intelligence will play a crucial role in the future of the NHS – and we need to embrace it by introducing systems which can speed up diagnoses, improve patient outcomes, make every pound go further and give clinicians more time with their patients,” predicted Health Secretary Matt Hancock.

Like the announcement earlier this week about new funding to attract AI research talent to the UK, the move is seen as part of the Industrial Strategy, specifically the Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund (ISCF) Wave 2 challenge, ‘Data to Early Diagnosis and Precision Medicine’.

The centres being dotted around the country (Leeds, Oxford, Coventry, Glasgow and London are confirmed), but will work with other partners around the marketplace. Vendors already confirmed as partners include GE Healthcare, Siemens, Philips, Leica, Canon and Roche Diagnostics, and all five centres will be based at universities and NHS facilities and expected to be up and running during 2019.

Focus areas include digital pathology and imaging, including radiology, says the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy, the centres will bring together doctors, businesses and academics to “develop products using these advances in digital technology to improve early diagnosis of disease, including cancer by detecting abnormalities”.

The products developed at the new centres will also offer more personalised treatment for patients while freeing up doctors to spend more time caring for patients, claims the Government, whose Business Secretary, Greg Clark, noted:

“AI has the potential to revolutionise healthcare and improve lives for the better. That’s why our modern Industrial Strategy puts pioneering technologies at the heart of our plans to build a Britain fit for the future.

“The innovation at these new centres will help diagnose disease earlier to give people more options when it comes to their treatment, and make reporting more efficient, freeing up time for our much-admired NHS staff time to spend on direct patient care.”