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NHS England Loses £111m in Funding for the 'NHS AI Lab'

Written by: Archie Williamson | Posted: 03-06-2024

NHS England Loses £111m in Funding for the 'NHS AI Lab'

This is an AI-generated image created with Midjourney by Molly-Anna MaQuirl

Is AI Technical Innovation in Healthcare under Threat?

NHS England has made a significant change in the investment of the NHS AI lab, revising the budget from an initial £250m to £139m in total. This decision cuts into national investment or funding the NHS for digitisation. 

Initially established in August 2019 by the then Secretary of State for Health Matt Hancock, the NHS AI Lab was aimed at responding to major issues in health and care. Some of its objectives were pretty challenging: working on earlier cancer detection, new approaches to dementia treatment, and individualised patient-oriented care. 

Key Initiatives and their Impact: 

The NHS AI Lab has contributed actively in several important projects such as funding the AI Ethics Initiative, giving rise to National Covid-19 Chest Imaging Database and contributing to the development of AI regulation. Moreover, the Artificial Intelligence in Health and Care Award, which acted as the lab's flagship, provided £113 million to 83 projects. These projects were offered in partnership with Accelerated Across Collaborative and the National Institute for Health Research, focused on supporting innovation growth in AI health startups and NHS research groups between 2020 and 2023. 

The funding reductions were also criticised by Pritesh Mistry, a Policy Fellow for digital technologies at the King’s Fund, indicating that the cuts could have some adverse effects on the healthcare system in the UK: “Reducing funding to this level is more than likely to affect development and implementation of AI into the NHS,” as Mistry said. He emphasised the continued investment in its services to harness the advantages of AI and to develop a new kind of workforce in the NHS. As per Mistry, the NHS AI Lab is instrumental in developing this talent, but a vast ecosystem still has a long way to go in terms of expertise and capability building. 

Independent Evaluation of AI Technology:

The annual funding of NHS England has, as ever, already been reduced, but there is at least a willingness to assess the value of applied AI investments. Earlier this year, £113 million was invested into AI projects, and an external review of these projects is soon to be launched. The goal of this assessment is to present a report within the year which will give important feedback on the outcomes of such spending. An NHS England official observed that the veritable advantages such as improvements in diagnosis and treatment of stroke and heart attack risks by the AI have not gone unnoticed. These types of improvements promoted by NHS AI Lab make it crystal clear that further trials of innovative technologies in the future must proceed with safety and measures. 

Role of Cabinet Office Partnership:

The role of the Cabinet Office in AI is further evidenced within the same year when it entered into a partnership with NHS England. The memorandum of understanding (MoU) was formally signed on the 25th of April 2024, between the incubator for Artificial intelligence (i.AI) and NHS England. This partnership exists for the primary purpose of promoting Artificial Intelligence outside of the clinical sphere of the NHS. Based on the Department of Health and Social Care, this authority ensures that AI will be involved in non-clinical solutions and will not participate in the development of medical products or devices. 

Although the authority is dedicated to AI solutions that do not directly apply to clinical practice, it is expected that the work will be on the AI-NHS interconnection setup. The recent move by the government to reduce the funding of the NHS AI lab shows that the improvement in the use and deployment of such technology in clinical practice may not increase at the same rate as before. 

To sum up, NHS England’s decision to reduce the budget for the NHS AI Lab reflects a comprehensive financial limitation and it underscores the need for strategic investment in AI. To shape the future of AI in the NHS, the evaluation of the new Cabinet Office and the AI projects collaboration will be vital as the healthcare system navigates these challenges. The AI transformation in the healthcare system is already significant, but this challenge will require sustainable consistency, dedication, and serious investment.

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NHS England Loses £111m in Funding for the 'NHS AI Lab'

Written by: Archie Williamson | Posted: 03-06-2024

NHS England Loses £111m in Funding for the 'NHS AI Lab'

This is an AI-generated image created with Midjourney by Molly-Anna MaQuirl

Is AI Technical Innovation in Healthcare under Threat?

NHS England has made a significant change in the investment of the NHS AI lab, revising the budget from an initial £250m to £139m in total. This decision cuts into national investment or funding the NHS for digitisation. 

Initially established in August 2019 by the then Secretary of State for Health Matt Hancock, the NHS AI Lab was aimed at responding to major issues in health and care. Some of its objectives were pretty challenging: working on earlier cancer detection, new approaches to dementia treatment, and individualised patient-oriented care. 

Key Initiatives and their Impact: 

The NHS AI Lab has contributed actively in several important projects such as funding the AI Ethics Initiative, giving rise to National Covid-19 Chest Imaging Database and contributing to the development of AI regulation. Moreover, the Artificial Intelligence in Health and Care Award, which acted as the lab's flagship, provided £113 million to 83 projects. These projects were offered in partnership with Accelerated Across Collaborative and the National Institute for Health Research, focused on supporting innovation growth in AI health startups and NHS research groups between 2020 and 2023. 

The funding reductions were also criticised by Pritesh Mistry, a Policy Fellow for digital technologies at the King’s Fund, indicating that the cuts could have some adverse effects on the healthcare system in the UK: “Reducing funding to this level is more than likely to affect development and implementation of AI into the NHS,” as Mistry said. He emphasised the continued investment in its services to harness the advantages of AI and to develop a new kind of workforce in the NHS. As per Mistry, the NHS AI Lab is instrumental in developing this talent, but a vast ecosystem still has a long way to go in terms of expertise and capability building. 

Independent Evaluation of AI Technology:

The annual funding of NHS England has, as ever, already been reduced, but there is at least a willingness to assess the value of applied AI investments. Earlier this year, £113 million was invested into AI projects, and an external review of these projects is soon to be launched. The goal of this assessment is to present a report within the year which will give important feedback on the outcomes of such spending. An NHS England official observed that the veritable advantages such as improvements in diagnosis and treatment of stroke and heart attack risks by the AI have not gone unnoticed. These types of improvements promoted by NHS AI Lab make it crystal clear that further trials of innovative technologies in the future must proceed with safety and measures. 

Role of Cabinet Office Partnership:

The role of the Cabinet Office in AI is further evidenced within the same year when it entered into a partnership with NHS England. The memorandum of understanding (MoU) was formally signed on the 25th of April 2024, between the incubator for Artificial intelligence (i.AI) and NHS England. This partnership exists for the primary purpose of promoting Artificial Intelligence outside of the clinical sphere of the NHS. Based on the Department of Health and Social Care, this authority ensures that AI will be involved in non-clinical solutions and will not participate in the development of medical products or devices. 

Although the authority is dedicated to AI solutions that do not directly apply to clinical practice, it is expected that the work will be on the AI-NHS interconnection setup. The recent move by the government to reduce the funding of the NHS AI lab shows that the improvement in the use and deployment of such technology in clinical practice may not increase at the same rate as before. 

To sum up, NHS England’s decision to reduce the budget for the NHS AI Lab reflects a comprehensive financial limitation and it underscores the need for strategic investment in AI. To shape the future of AI in the NHS, the evaluation of the new Cabinet Office and the AI projects collaboration will be vital as the healthcare system navigates these challenges. The AI transformation in the healthcare system is already significant, but this challenge will require sustainable consistency, dedication, and serious investment.