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Disease diagnosis to be boosted by £50m NHS AI funding boost

Major improvements are set to be made to speeding up the diagnosis of deadly diseases such as cancer, following a £50m investment into diagnostic centres of excellence, which seek to develop the effective use of artificial intelligence (AI) across the NHS.

Under the new funding, 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 – will be scaled up, providing potentially improved outcomes for millions of patients and freeing up value NHS staff time.

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

Pathology and imaging services, which include the likes of radiology, play a critical role in the diagnosis of diseases and the additional investment will lead to faster and more accurate diagnosis and more personalised treatments for patients, freeing up clinicians’ time and ultimately saving lives.

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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.”

The three centres set to benefit from the funding are:

  • the London Medical Imaging and Artificial Intelligence Centre for Value-Based Healthcare, which will look to utilise 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 Co-operative (NPIC), located in Leeds, which will capitalise on the city’s burgeoning academic and life sciences hub and boost the city’s reputation in digital pathology research by creating a world-leading centre, linking up with nine industry partners, nine NHS trusts and eight universities.
  • the Pathology Image Data Lake for Analytics, Knowledge and Education (PathLAKE), based in Coventry, which will use NHS pathology data to drive economic growth in health-related AI

NPIC Director and Consultant Pathologist at Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust, Darren Treanor, said: “This investment will allow us to use digital pathology to diagnose cancer at 21 NHS trusts in the north, serving a population of 6 million people.

“We will also build a national network spanning another 25 hospitals in England, allowing doctors to get expert second opinions in rare cancers, such as childhood tumours, more rapidly.

“This funding puts the NHS in a strong position to be a global leader in the use of artificial intelligence in the diagnosis of disease.”


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