Government announces £50m diagnostic products under National AI Lab

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The government has announced a further £50million for artificial intelligence technologies to benefit NHS patients.

A range of AI tools that can accurately analyse breast cancer screening scans and assess emergency stroke patients will be tested and scaled under the National AI Lab.

Take-home technology could also see patients given devices and software that can turn their smartphone into a clinical grade medical device for monitoring kidney disease.

Other take-home technology includes a wearable patch to detect irregular heartbeats, one of the leading causes of strokes and heart attacks.

Sir Simon Stevens, NHS chief executive, said: “The NHS has and always will rely first and foremost on the clinical expertise of our staff, but the innovations we’re funding today have the potential to save lives by improving screening, cancer treatment and stroke care for NHS patients across the country.

“We’re still in the early stages of AI, but when the latest chapter in the history of medicine comes to be written, AI in health care will doubtless rank alongside earlier advances such as the stethoscope, the X-ray and the blood test.”

NHSX chief Matthew Gould added: “Throughout the pandemic, the NHS has shown how digital technology can transform the service it provides, quickly and safely, but we have a long way to go.

“The NHS AI Lab was set up to drive the adoption of data-driven technologies, with the goal of enhancing the care our staff can give their patients, and these awards should give that effort a serious boost.”

The AI in Health and Care Award funding will support a range of technologies at different stages of development, from initial concepts to real-world tests.

Each product will undergo robust testing and independent evaluation to ensure they are effective, accurate, safe and value for money. They will be trialled in several NHS organisations before being more widely adopted.

The NHS will also support the first real-world tests of technologies including a system that can detect prostate cancer in biopsy tissue slides, and a device which uses an algorithm to immediately diagnose heart failure.

Successful products include:

  • Healthy IO – will spread their AI powered app that turns a smartphone into a clinical grade medical device capable of detecting albuminuria, an early warning sign of Chronic Kidney Disease.
  • Irhythm Technologies – will spread their wearable ECG monitoring patch and service that utilises AI-led processing to help diagnose atrial fibrillation.
  • Brainomix – will share their digital tools, used to assess emergency stroke patients, to a number of NHS sites following recent successful deployment at Royal Berkshire NHS Trust.

Health secretary Matt Hancock said: “During the pandemic we have all seen the positive impact new technology can have – from our next generation rapid testing, to our machine-learning tools helping the NHS predict where beds and oxygen are needed – and I’m determined we continue down this path.”

Announcing the funding at the Founders Forum Healthtech Summit at London Tech Week on 8 September Hancock outlined three areas where the NHS has “made progress” on the use of technology and data but said there’s “much more to do”.

He said the NHS needs to have the “very best possible environment” for the uptake of technology and innovation and called for better use of data, ensuring the “data architecture of the NHS is interoperable” while still protecting privacy.

Recognising the importance of relationships with industry, he said the health service cannot realise the benefits of new technology without a “close and symbiotic” relationship with innovators.

The National AI Lab was announced last year in an effort to increase the use of innovative new technologies in the health service.

The £140m AI in Health and Care Award programme is managed by the Accelerated Access Collaborative in partnership with NHSX and the National Institute for Health Research.

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