£36m boost for AI technologies to revolutionise NHS care

38 pioneering artificial intelligence (AI) projects announced to help revolutionise care, accelerate cancer diagnosis, and provide mental health support

A second moneypot has been announced to help accelerate the development of AI-driven healthcare technology

Thousands of patients and NHS staff will benefit from dozens of new pioneering projects awarded a share of a £36m moneypot to test state-of-the-art AI technology.

The projects will help the NHS to transform the quality of care and the speed of diagnoses for conditions such as lung cancer.

Confronted with this global pandemic, our tech sector has risen to the challenge and upended how we do things through innovations to support people to test from home, complete remote consultations, and diagnose issues safely

At the CogX Festival last week, the then Health and Social Care Secretary, Matt Hancock, announced the winners of the second wave of the NHS AI Lab’s AI in Health and Care Award.

The 38 trailblazing projects backed by NHSX and Accelerated Access Collaborative (AAC) include:

  • An AI-guided tool to help doctors and nurses to diagnose heart attacks more accurately
  • An algorithm to fast-track the detection of lung cancer
  • An AI-powered mental health app to help tackle symptoms of anxiety and depression while also identifying people experiencing severe mental health difficulties
  • Technology to help spot undiagnosed spinal fractures

Among the recipients is BeholdAI, which will use the money to further develop its AI algorithm which can identify suspected lung cancer in chest X-rays

Since September, over 17,000 stroke patients and more than 25,000 patients with diabetes or high blood pressure have benefited from the first round of the AI in Health and Care Award, where £50m was shared among 42 AI technologies.

Hancock said: “AI has the potential to completely revolutionise every part of how we approach healthcare, from how we diagnose diseases and the speed at which our doctors and nurses deliver treatments, to how we support people’s mental health.

“The 38 projects we are backing reflect the UK’s trailblazing approach to innovation in the healthcare sector and could help us take a leap forward in the quality of care and the speed of disease diagnoses and treatment in the NHS.

AI has the potential to completely revolutionise every part of how we approach healthcare, from how we diagnose diseases and the speed at which our doctors and nurses deliver treatments, to how we support people’s mental health

“Confronted with this global pandemic, our tech sector has risen to the challenge and upended how we do things through innovations to support people to test from home, complete remote consultations, and diagnose issues safely.

Sir Simon Stevens, chief executive of NHS England, added: “Through our NHS AI Lab we’re now backing a new generation of ground-breaking, but practical, solutions to some of the biggest challenges in healthcare.

“Precision cancer diagnosis, accurate surgery, and new ways of offering mental health support are just a few of the promising real-world patient benefits.

“Because as the NHS comes through the pandemic, rather than a return to old ways, we’re supercharging a more-innovative future.

“So, today, our message to developers worldwide is clear – the NHS is ready to help you test your innovations and ensure our patients are among the first in the world to benefit from new AI technologies.”

The AI in Health and Care Award aims to accelerate the testing and evaluation of AI in the NHS so patients can benefit from faster and more-personalised diagnosis and greater efficiency in screening services.

For example, use of Paige Prostate will be able to give more information about prostate cancer, including detecting a tumour, its size, and how severe it is, enabling clinicians to make treatment more specific and more targeted.

As the NHS comes through the pandemic, rather than a return to old ways, we’re supercharging a more-innovative future

And Mia by Kheiron Medical, a winner from the first round of the AI Awards, aims to replace the need for two radiologists to review breast cancer scans by instead using one radiologist and the AI technology, making the process faster and more efficient.

Zebra Medical's bone health solution analyses CT scans to find undiagnosed spinal fractures

The 38 projects which are being supported by the second wave of the AI Awards include:

  • An algorithm from BeholdAI that can identify suspected lung cancer in chest X-rays to increase the numbers of cancers diagnosed and reduce the time patients wait for scans
  • The Paige Prostate cancer detection tool to help pathologists identify cancers and their spread in digital images to improve diagnostic accuracy and help tackle rising caseloads
  • Zebra Medical’s Bone Health Solutions tool to analyse existing CT scans to look for previously undiagnosed spinal fractures that could be a sign of osteoporosis to find more patients living with this undiagnosed disease, ensuring they receive appropriate advice or medication
  • Mental health app, Wysa, an AI-powered chatbot and series of self-care exercises which will provide mental health support, helping people manage their mental health

Matthew Gould, chief executive of NHSX, said: “These trials are making the AI revolution a reality for patients.

“Thousands are already benefiting from faster stroke treatment to ground-breaking home kidney testing.

Our message to developers worldwide is clear – the NHS is ready to help you test your innovations and ensure our patients are among the first in the world to benefit from new AI technologies

“Today’s award winners will push NHS AI into new areas like mental health. The possibilities are immense.

“This work will help ensure the NHS is a world leader in safe use of AI in health and care.”

And Matt Whitty, chief executive of accelerated access collaborative and innovation and research and life sciences director at NHS England and NHS Improvement, adds: “Today’s announcement demonstrates our backing for a broad range of innovations, including those to improve cancer care and support for our first mental health project.

“The NHS has the tools in place to become a world leader in testing and deploying new AI technologies that can improve patients’ lives and showcase the breadth of talent and ingenuity present throughout the UK across academia, industry, and the NHS.”

The AI award package also includes funding to support the research, development and testing of early-phase, promising ideas which could be used in the NHS in future, including an AI-guided tool that could diagnose heart attacks more accurately and quickly through better interpretation of blood analysis; and a home monitoring solution for cystic fibrosis.

The NHS has the tools in place to become a world leader in testing and deploying new AI technologies that can improve patients’ lives and showcase the breadth of talent and ingenuity present throughout the UK across academia, industry, and the NHS

The AI in Health and Care Award will distribute a total of £140m over three years, with the next round of applications set to open in the coming weeks.

The AI award is managed by the AAC delivered in partnership with NHSX and the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR).

The Wysa app is the first mental health technology to receive funding

Commenting on the announcement, Flann Horgan, vice president of healthcare at NTT DATA UK, told BBH: "This funding announcement represents a key vote of confidence from the Government in UK technology.

"The list of projects and new technologies is testament to the richness of AI research in 2020, a field which has helped the UK establish itself as a global centre for cutting-edge innovation.

"Some of the most-exciting technological developments are happening in these AI-driven healthcare research projects. This is unsurprising, given the rapid emergence of applications for AI across a range of healthcare scenarios in recent years.

"Many of these AI tools will help to support expert clinicians with their jobs, and facilitate predictive care, improve accuracy of diagnoses, create the next generation of radiology tools, and advance the use of immunotherapy for cancer treatment - to name a few use cases.

"During the pandemic, we witnessed the important role that tech can play in building a robust healthcare system and AI will have a critical role to play in continuing to modernise healthcare in the years to come, improving outcomes for patients and medical professionals, and it is great to see the Government recognise this and provide funding to ensure the UK remains a leader in the healthcare technology space."

And speaking about its success in this round of funding, Dr Leo Grady, chief executive of Paige ai, added: "Computational pathology for diagnostics has clear potential to increase diagnostic accuracy and more efficiently utilise scarce diagnostic resources in the NHS and in other health systems around the world.

"The next clear step to bring this to routine practice is pathologist-led implementation in everyday practice to demonstrate and measure benefits to patients, laboratories and the NHS.

"This exciting work we are doing with Oxford University and its NHS partners is a tremendous achievement and Paige is very proud to be working with them in transforming the important work that pathologists do."

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