The UK government announces $250m influx for AI in the health service

The money will be spent towards setting up a national AI lab that will operate as part of NHSX, the department that oversees the digitization of health services in the UK. The AI technology will hope to be utilized for a variety of applications such as cancer screening, patient bed number review and for identifying patients whose treatment can be improved as well as automating routine admin tasks.

Health Secretary, Matt Hancock, says the intention is too also use this AI technology in combination with the growing trend of genomic testing to be able to create a system, where illness like sepsis, strokes and heart attacks can be diagnosed before symptoms have appeared. Following this goal, 5 million people in the UK will be offered a free personalized report based on their genetic profile, thus tying in with the NHS long term plan that highlights a shift towards prevention and wellness in the healthcare service.

Although this news and the recent £1.8bn investment is being widely welcomed, experts are acting cautious stressing the need that ‘technology needs to be driven by patient need and not just for technology sake’ and that like any technology AI must be submitted to ‘robust evaluation’ before being widely implemented. There also needs to be further clarity about where this money will come from and whether NHS services will have to make any cutbacks or trade-offs.

Similarly, Matthew Honeyman a researcher at The Kings Fund, does not seem as optimistic, commenting that “ many NHS staff currently feel IT makes their life harder and not easier.” And for there to be success, when rolling out new technologies like AI, it will require standards to ensure that the workforce is equipped with the right digital skills.

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