UK government to invest £250m in NHS AI lab

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The UK health secretary Matt Hancock has announced £250m to be put forward for a new National Artificial Intelligence Lab, aimed at improving the healthcare system in the country.

The lab would bring the industry’s finest academics, specialists, and tech firms to tackle some of the biggest challenges in healthcare, which includes cancer detection, dementia treatments, and more personalised care. The investment would back the NHS Long Term Plan under which AI will be used to assist clinicians to remove variations in care. The lab will come under the purview of NHSX — which manages digitisation of the entire healthcare system – together with the Accelerated Access Collaborative.

“Carefully targeted AI is now ready for practical application in health services, and the investment announced today is another step in the right direction to help the NHS become a world leader in using these important technologies,” said Simon Stevens, chief executive of NHS England.

“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, and our new NHS AI Lab will ensure the benefits of NHS data and innovation are fully harnessed for patients in this country,” Stevens added.

In early July, the NHS announced a partnership with Amazon to offer reliable health information from the healthcare body’s website by means of voice-assisted technology Alexa, which has the potential to mitigate the pressure on the NHS and General Practitioners by providing information for common illnesses.

Matthew Gould, chief executive of NHSX, said at the time: “The public need to be able to get reliable information about their health easily and in ways they actually use. By working closely with Amazon and other tech companies, big and small, we can ensure that the millions of users looking for health information every day can get simple, validated advice at the touch of a button or voice command.”

Not all stakeholders appear to be happy about the recent developments, however. A GP based in Hampshire wrote to The Register this week arguing the AI lab proposal was ‘just another sound bite.’

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