Image of a health professional holding a digital tablet talking to a patient depicting the AI funding and IT infrastructure

New £21m AI investment should not outpace support for core digital infrastructure, NHS leaders say

More than 60 NHS trusts are set to receive a share of fresh government AI funding to speed up the diagnosis and treatment of lung cancer in England.

The £21m investment will be ringfenced for 64 trusts across England and will reach all regions of the country – from Tyneside to London.

The money will help local health leaders deploy AI tools to analyse x-rays and CT scans, ultimately helping clinicians as well as expediting patient diagnostics and treatments.

According to the government, the tools will start being rolled out in time for winter – helping to ease pressure and free up staff time in what is traditionally the busiest time of the year.

The £21m follows the announcement of a £100m AI accelerator fund for the benefit of innovations that address previously incurable diseases.

It also comes just before the AI safety summit is hosted at Bletchley Park by prime minister Rishi Sunak, where international leaders will come together to discuss the risks of AI and how they can be mitigated.

As the Department of Health and Social Care continues to try and harness the potential of AI for the NHS, some experts are concerned that the foundations of digital and IT infrastructure could be left behind.

Sir Julian Hartley, the chief executive at NHS Providers, highlighted that, as the tip of the digital transformation agenda surges forward, it is “vital” that this does not come “at the expense of the critical need to invest in core digital and IT infrastructure”.

This is the same for staff as they will need the requisite skills to adapt to new working practices. Success will hinge on “sustainable funding” for digital NHS teams, according to Hartley.

"It will be important too that as new technologies are rolled out, the needs of patients and their families are put front and centre to ensure these new services are trusted by everyone.”

Conversations around the safe deployment of AI featured at a roundtable hosted by Steve Barclay yesterday, where sector leaders convened to discuss and identify ways of quickening the roll-out of AI across the NHS.

To learn more about some of the latest innovations across the NHS, sign up to National Health Executive’s Digital Health virtual event.

Image credit: iStock

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NHE May/June 2024

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