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500,000 patients to benefit from AI and machine learning at the NHS

23 October 2018

Patients could benefit from faster access to treatment under two new programmes which identify innovative technologies and treatments then speed up their uptake. Health and Social Care Secretary Matt Hancock has announced £7 million in funding for a raft of projects across England that will boost the way NHS staff work and improve patient outcomes.

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The second wave of the NHS Test Beds programme will be launched in seven places across the country to tackle some of the biggest challenges in health and care by testing combinations of innovations in real-world clinical settings.

Projects include the use of artificial intelligence and machine learning to deliver a more accurate and efficient breast cancer screening service and a new digital platform to help people to manage diabetes.

A further £2 million of funding will be available for boosting the spread of seven proven innovative technology areas that have been identified as helping to improve patients’ lives.

Supporting the ‘rapid uptake’ products will not only help 500,000 patients to access new treatments, they will also provide cost-savings to the NHS of £30 million, whilst helping to reinforce the UK’s position as a global leader in health innovation.

Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, Matt Hancock MP said:

“The UK is a world leader in medical and health research and we want to make sure patients are the first to benefit from the tech revolution happening across the NHS.

“Every day, innovative new treatments are demonstrating the power technology has to save lives – and I want to make these opportunities available across the whole NHS.

“These programmes will fast track innovations from lab bench to patient bedside and help ensure that NHS patients continue to be the first to benefit from the life-changing treatments developed in this country.”

They include:

NHS Test Beds

Nottingham University Hospital Trust will test an AI tool developed specifically for breast cancer screening, which will help radiologists and breast units deliver more accurate results and reduce unnecessary recalls and biopsies.

The technology could help deliver an improved breast screening service to an estimated 176,000 women annually in the UK by 2021 and saving the NHS and estimated £1.3 million a year saved by 2021 and £11.8 million in total by 2025.

Royal Stoke University Hospital will combine three new digital technologies to help reduce A&E admissions for patients with chronic long-term heart failure by coordinating community-based clinical interventions with patients who report deteriorating symptoms.

Rolled out nationally it is estimated the project could lead to 24,000 fewer hospital admissions, 240,000 less bed days and savings of £60 million.

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Rapid Uptake Products

Quantitative faecal immunochemical tests (FITs) can detect small amounts of blood in stool samples, which may be a sign of bowel cancer.

FIT is a simple test for bowel cancer and is more accurate than the current faecal occult blood test and only requires one stool sample. Currently patients need to take two samples of faeces on three separate occasions and post them in a sealed envelope for testing.

Bowel cancer kills more than 16,000 people a year in the UK. The FIT test could help detect an extra 1,500 cancers and around 8,500 high-risk adenomas each year.

These ‘rapid uptake’ products include a range of treatments for conditions such as cancer, heart disease and multiple sclerosis, and the focus is on overcoming barriers to increase their widespread use in the system.

Through the Accelerated Access Collaborative (AAC), leaders in the health system have identified these products so that UK patients benefit from the world-class health innovations developed in this country first. 

The investment also supports the ambition of the Government’s modern Industrial Strategy to make Britain the best place in the world for innovators, including new treatments to help people live longer, healthier and happier lives through the Life Sciences Sector Deal.

Business Secretary Greg Clark said:

“From the first vaccine to the first blood transfusion, the UK has an unmatched reputation in medical research and innovation.

“This collaboration will rapidly bring life-saving products into real world clinical settings. Our modern Industrial Strategy builds on our unique strengths and heritage in medical research and innovation, not only creating new products and jobs but ensuring NHS patients are at the forefront of these technological advances.”

Dr Sam Roberts, Director of Innovation, Research and Life Sciences at NHS England, said: 

“Our ambitious test beds programme is bringing together innovators, industry and the NHS to tackle some of the biggest challenges facing the NHS, including diabetes.

“Testing multiple cutting-edge technologies – from AI to wearable sensors – in a real-world setting, allows us to discover what works for patients and will provide the evidence needed to accelerate the use of world leading interventions as part of the long term plan for the NHS.”

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