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Ensuring the UK is a destination of choice for AI development

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Dr Indra Joshi

Director of AI, NHSX

NHSX are positioning the UK to become the country where innovators choose to test their AI products, as well as putting the building blocks in place to ensure it is the best place to perfect AI so the NHS and our patients can reap the rewards.

Artificial intelligence (AI) has the potential to transform healthcare, from ever more personalised treatments to earlier detection of cancer. 

Using the NHS to help test AI products

The NHS AI Lab, a specialist unit, has been created to help the NHS safely adopt AI for the good of staff and patients. 

We want the UK to become the country of choice for AI innovation, so the NHS and our citizens quickly get the benefits. So, we are putting the building blocks in place. The AI Lab is leading the NHS effort on all fronts, from supporting innovators to test their products to working with regulators to ensure AI can be appropriately assessed. 

AI and the impact of COVID-19

During the pandemic for instance, we launched the National COVID-19 Chest Imaging Database. This library of chest images supports the development and testing of AI technologies to help patients hospitalised with COVID-19, with a number of projects already making use of it. 

It is a practical example of how the Lab working with partners can help create environments that foster innovation while assuring patient confidentiality and the safe deployment of AI tools into clinical practice. 

We want the UK to become the country of choice for AI innovation, so the NHS and our citizens quickly get the benefits.

Testing new technologies before scaling up

The Lab’s flagship initiative, worth £140m over three years, is the AI in Health and Care Award. Round one is already supporting 42 innovations from early research to helping some products with their first real-world tests. Round two of the AI Award closed today (December 8th).

And for a select group of more mature AI technologies, including: 

  • A home test kit and mobile app by Healthy.io that could help detect early kidney disease. 
  • Veye Chest by Aidence, an AI platform that can automate early lung cancer detection. 
  • EchoGo Pro by Ultromics, a solution that uses AI to process echocardiographic images to predict prognostically significant heart disease. 

We are testing them at scale across multiple hospitals and GP practices to gather the evidence needed to support a national rollout. 

National building blocks in place 

We are putting in place the other essential building blocks. Working with MHRA, NICE and the other regulators in the space we will ensure we have clear regulatory and ethical standards in place, to give confidence both to clinicians and patients, and to innovators. To tackle the issues around diversity, bias and the impact of algorithms; we have set up a Responsible Research and Innovation programme to address these areas and embed them into the wider programme of work

In many cases AI tools will be bought by local NHS organisations, so the Lab has produced guidance for them. The AI Buyers Guide will help local NHS bodies walk the line between the exciting possibilities and the need to ensure products meet the highest standards of safety and effectiveness.

There are exciting times ahead for AI in health, and for The AI Lab in NHSX.

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