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Funding boost for artificial intelligence in NHS to speed up diagnosis of deadly diseases

Monday August 31st, 2020

Patients will benefit from major improvements in technology to speed up the diagnosis of deadly diseases like cancer thanks to further investment in the use of artificial intelligence across the NHS.nhslogo

A £50 million funding boost will scale up the work of existing Digital Pathology and Imaging Artificial Intelligence Centres of Excellence, which were launched in 2018 to develop cutting-edge digital tools to improve the diagnosis of disease.

The 3 centres set to receive a share of the funding, based in Coventry, Leeds and London, will deliver digital upgrades to pathology and imaging services across an additional 38 NHS trusts, benefiting 26.5 million patients across England.

Pathology and imaging services, including radiology, play a crucial role in the diagnosis of diseases and the funding will lead to faster and more accurate diagnosis and more personalised treatments for patients, freeing up clinicians’ time and ultimately saving lives.

The government has also provided an update on the number of cancer diagnostic machines replaced in England since September 2019, when £200 million was announced to help replace MRI machines, CT scanners and breast screening equipment, as part of the government’s commitment to ensure 55,000 more people survive cancer each year.

69 scanners have now been installed and are in use, 10 more are being installed and 75 have been ordered or are ready to be installed.

The new funding is part of the government’s commitment to saving thousands more lives each year and detecting three-quarters of all cancers at an early stage by 2028.

Cancer diagnosis and treatment has been an absolute priority throughout the pandemic and continues to be so. Nightingale hospitals have been turned into mass screening centres and hospitals have successfully and quickly cared for patients urgently referred by their GP, with over 92% of urgent cancer referrals being investigated within 2 weeks, and 85,000 people starting treatment for cancer since the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic.

In June, 45,000 more people came forward for a cancer check and the public are urged if they are concerned about possible symptoms to contact their GP and get a check-up.

The centres benefiting from the funding are:

  • London Medical Imaging and Artificial Intelligence Centre for Value-Based Healthcare, which will use artificial intelligence in medical imaging and related clinical data for faster and earlier diagnosis and automating expensive and time-consuming manual reporting
  • the National Pathology Imaging Collaborative (NPIC) located in Leeds, which will boost the city’s reputation in digital pathology research further by creating a world-leading centre linking up 9 industry partners, 8 universities and 9 NHS trusts
  • based in Coventry, the Pathology Image Data Lake for Analytics, Knowledge and Education (PathLAKE) will use NHS pathology data to drive economic growth in health-related AI

Alongside the clinical improvements, this investment supports the UK’s long-term response to COVID-19, contributing to the government’s aim of building a British diagnostics industry at scale. The funding will support the UK’s artificial intelligence and technology industries, by allowing the centres to partner with new and innovative British small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), boosting our economic recovery from coronavirus.

Health and Social Care Secretary Matt Hancock said:

“Technology is a force for good in our fight against the deadliest diseases – it can transform and save lives through faster diagnosis, free up clinicians to spend time with their patients and make every pound in the NHS go further.

I am determined we do all we can to save lives by spotting cancer sooner. Bringing the benefits of artificial intelligence to the frontline of our health service with this funding is another step in that mission. We can support doctors to improve the care we provide and make Britain a world-leader in this field.

The NHS is open and I urge anyone who suspects they have symptoms to book an appointment with their GP as soon as possible to benefit from our excellent diagnostics and treatments.”

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