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Government announces plans to build £250m NHS AI Lab

Friday August 9th, 2019

The Government has announced plans to spend £250m setting up a National Artificial Intelligence Lab for the NHS.Government Opportunities

This is the third healthcare funding announcement of the week as Boris Johnson looks to underline his commitment to the NHS. It follows the £1.8bn funding announcement on Tuesday and yesterday’s stated intention to change pension rules in an effort to end the row over tax charges.
The NHS AI Lab will sit within NHSX, the new body responsible for delivering the NHS Tech Vision (see: Matthew Gould reveals further plans for NHSX). NHSX will work with the Accelerated Access Collaborative, a partnership of government, NHS, industry and patient representatives, to set up the lab.

The initiative builds on the Accelerating Detection of Disease programme that was announced as part of the Life Sciences Sector Deal 2 in December 2018, a key component in delivering the AI and Data Grand Challenge mission to use data, artificial intelligence and innovation to transform the prevention, early diagnosis and treatment of chronic diseases by 2030. At the end of last month Theresa May announced businesses and charities are expected to jointly invest up to £160m in the programme, alongside a £79m government investment.

How the NHS AI Lab fits into the wider industry strategy AI initiatives is not yet clear and we will have to read the small print before we know when the £250m, which is apparently new money, will become available and over how many years it will be spread.

There is little doubt that AI will fundamentally change healthcare in the country, and we are already seeing it used across many parts of the sector, including prevention, diagnosis, treatment, genomics and drug discovery. However, before the true potential of AI can be realised, industry, academia, government and wider society will need to consider carefully a wide range of factors, including, but not limited to: data access, cyber-security, trust and ethics, workforce implications, demand management, accuracy and efficacy.

Announcing the news, Johnson said:

“In the first instance it should help personalise NHS screening and treatments for cancer, eye disease and a range of other conditions, as well as freeing up staff time”.

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