Health Secretary announces £250m investment in AI

A new National Artificial Intelligence Lab that will use the power of artificial intelligence (AI) to improve the health and lives of patients is being established by the NHS.

The lab will sit within NHSX, the new organisation that will oversee the digitisation of the health and care system, in partnership with the Accelerated Access Collaborative.

The investment will support the ambitions in the NHS Long Term Plan, which includes pledges to use AI to help clinicians eliminate variations in care. 

‘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 personalised health and care service,’ said Health Secretary Matt Hancock. ‘I am determined to bring the benefits of technology to patients and staff, so the impact of our NHS Long Term Plan and this immediate, multimillion pound cash injection are felt by all. It’s part of our mission to make the NHS the best it can be.’ 

‘The experts tell us that because of our NHS and our tech talent, the UK 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,’ Hancock continued. 

Tim Ensor, director of artificial intelligence at technology consultancy firm Cambridge Consultants, said: ‘The NHS is unique: a single organisation providing healthcare to the whole UK. This means the NHS is perfectly placed to use AI to improve healthcare and also to use its scale to enable the UK to be the best place in the world to develop AI. 

‘But the NHS should not spend this money on developing their own AI algorithms. There are many companies and institutions in the UK with proven capability to develop AI algorithms supporting new healthcare services,’ Ensor continued. 

Ensor went onto say the key component is well managed access to patient and hospital operations data, and so this money should be focused on: ‘Enabling the NHS to provide equal access to its data for all credible UK-based researchers, ensuring that ethical, unbiased and high-quality services are developed based on this data, and developing the capability to roll-out the best AI applications across the entire NHS, in order to achieve the true benefits of its scale for both patients and practitioners.’