• Government announces £250 million fund for AI lab 
  • Prime minister says funding will help free up staff to care for patients 
  • Money will not start to be spent until 2020/21 financial year 

Millions of pounds will be invested in a so-called National Artificial Intelligence Lab for the NHS to deliver quicker breast screening results and improved predictions for drug and bed usage.

The Department of Health and Social Care has today revealed plans to spend £250m on the lab, which will sit within the new tech unit, NHSX.

But the department said the money will not begin to be spent until the 2020/21 financial year. 

According to the DHSC, the AI lab could identify patients most at risk of life-threatening diseases and help upskill the NHS workforce so they can use AI systems while at work.

Academics, specialists and technology companies will work within the lab to “harness the power of AI to improve the health and lives of patients”.

Chief executive of NHS England, Simon Stevens, said: “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.

“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.”

Prime minister, Boris Johnson said: “My task is to ensure the NHS has the funding it needs to make a real difference to the lives of staff and patients. Transforming care through artificial intelligence is a perfect illustration of that.”

Health and social care secretary, Matt Hancock, added: “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.”

Last month the government announced plans to offer up to five million NHS patients a free health report based on their DNA to predict which conditions they are likely to get.

The HSJ Digital Transformation Summit, taking place at the Crowne Plaza, Stratford-upon-Avon from 12-13 February 2020, unites 120+ senior leaders from across the provider, commissioning and STP landscape with those who have leveraged technology to drive tangible improvements across other industries, to discuss how to realise your digital visions in a cash-limited environment and scale up innovations to improve quality and outcomes for your local population.

Held under the Chatham House Rule, attendees will quiz NHSX and other national figures on general policy direction and co-develop solutions to their local challenges with innovators from across the country. The Summit is free to attend for senior NHS digital leaders – register your interest here https://digitaltransformation.hsj.co.uk