NHS to develop AI lab with £250m funding

The UK government has announced £250m of funding for the NHS to set up a national artificial intelligence (AI) lab to enhance care and research.

Announcing the funding, new prime minister Boris Johnson said the lab will work on ways to use AI to improve the detection of diseases and automate admin tasks to free up staff to care for patients, amongst other things.

“The NHS is leading the way in harnessing new technology to treat and prevent, from earlier cancer detection to spotting the deadly signs of dementia,” Johnson said.

Health secretary Matt Hancock added that the NHS was “on the cusp of a huge health tech revolution that could transform patient experience by making the NHS a truly predictive, preventive and personalised health and care service”.

Earlier this year the Topol Review of the training needs of the future NHS workforce recommended an increase in the number of clinicians trained to use digital, AI and robotics technologies.

And life sciences tsar Sir John Bell has predicted that the NHS could save billions of pounds by using AI to diagnose scans for heart disease and lung cancer.

The news follows Johnson’s announcement earlier this week that the government would be providing the health service with a £1.8 billion cash injection to go towards new equipment and upgrades to 20 hospitals – funding which some critics called ‘a drop in the ocean’ compared to the real needs of the NHS.

The new rounds of funding for the health service will be seen as an attempt by Johnson to make good on claims he made during the 2016 referendum that leaving the EU would free up £350 million for the NHS – a pledge that has often been criticised as unrealistic.

Johnson, a more outspoken Brexiteer than his predecessor Theresa May, has promised to take the UK out of the EU by October 31st even if a new deal with the bloc cannot be struck. Many in the healthcare and pharmaceutical industries have warned that a no deal scenario would disrupt supplies to essential drugs whilst exacerbating staff and funding issues in the NHS. 


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