NHS Invests £250M in National Artificial Intelligence Lab

Aug. 12, 2019
Health officials have outlined several core goals for the lab’s work around personalized treatment, earlier cancer detection and keeping patients out of the hospital

The U.K.’s National Health Service (NHS) will be investing £250 million in a new national artificial intelligence (AI) lab with the aim to  work on some of the biggest challenges in healthcare such as earlier cancer detection, new dementia treatments and more personalized care.

According to an announcement spearheaded from NHS Health Secretary Matt Hancock, the AI lab will bring together the industry’s best academics, specialists and technology companies, noting that AI is already being developed in some hospitals and has successfully predicted cancer survival rates and cut the number of missed patient appointments.

The NHS press release outlined several core goals for the lab over time, including to improve cancer screening by speeding up the results of tests, including mammograms, brain scans, eye scans and heart monitoring, and to use predictive models to better estimate future needs of beds, drugs, devices or surgeries.

Other areas where NHS officials see an opportunity for AI to make a difference are in identifying which patients could be more easily treated in the community, reducing the pressure on the NHS and helping patients receive treatment closer to home, as well as identifying patients most at risk of diseases such as heart disease or dementia, allowing for earlier diagnosis and cheaper, more focused, personalized prevention.

Officials believe that the lab’s work could also result in building systems to detect people at risk of post-operative complications, infections or requiring follow-up from clinicians, improving patient safety and reducing readmission rates.

The lab will sit within NHSX, the new organization that will oversee the digitization of the healthcare system, in partnership with the Accelerated Access Collaborative, a group working to make the U.K. one of the most pro-innovation health systems in the world.

In a statement, Hancock said, “We are on the cusp of a huge health tech revolution that could transform patient experience by making the NHS a truly predictive, preventive and personalized health and care service.” He added, “The experts tell us that because of our NHS and our tech talent, the U.K. could be the world leader in these advances in healthcare, so I’m determined to give the NHS the chance to be the world leader in saving lives through artificial intelligence and genomics.”

Simon Stevens, NHS England chief executive, noted, “In the first instance it should help personalize 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.”