NHS offered £21m fund to invest in AI-powered diagnostic tools

Government also commits to rolling out automation across stroke networks within six months

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The government has unveiled a £21m fund to enable NHS trusts to invest in diagnostic tools powered by artificial intelligence.

The aim of the cash pot is to enable local NHS entities to invest in tools such as “imaging and decision support tools” that can be used to help diagnose and treat conditions including cancer, strokes and heart disease.

The cash pot will be open for bids for investment for “for any AI diagnostic tool that trusts want to deploy”. To secure funding, bids will have to demonstrate value for money.

The government claimed that the additional funding – which has been ring-fenced for spending on artificial intelligence technology – comes on top of a total of £123m that has already been spent on 86 different AI technologies, according to the government.

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Health and social care secretary Steve Barclay said: “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.”

Alongside the £21m funding package, Barclay also pledged that government will ensure that AI stroke diagnosis will be deployed across all local NHS networks dedicated to stroke care by the end of this year. Currently, 86% of strokes networks are making use of automated diagnostic tools.

Dr Deb Lowe, NHS England’s national clinical director for stroke medicine, said: “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.”

Sam Trendall

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