Artificial Intelligence
The new tools are set to be deployed in NHS hospitals by winter, which will help alleviate the pressure on the NHS and free up valuable staff time. DADO RUVIC/Reuters

The United Kingdom's National Health Service (NHS) is on the brink of transforming healthcare.

The NHS plans on using artificial intelligence (AI) technology to quicken the time it takes doctors to diagnose lung cancer and treat it. The UK government has given them £21 million for this project which will be spread across 64 NHS trusts in England.

This funding will give these trusts access to AI tools that can analyse CT scans and X-rays, ultimately improving efficiency, waiting times and patient outcomes.

Every month it performs over 600,000 chest X-rays in England alone. The introduction of AI tech into more NHS trusts is a huge step forward in patient care. It's set to begin in hospitals this winter and is going to reduce stress on the healthcare system and free up staff time.

Secretary Steve Barclay recently hosted a roundtable meeting with NHS trusts, industry leaders and health officials about AI integration strategies in healthcare. The discussions emphasised the safe deployment of AI to reduce waiting lists, relieve hospital pressure, automate administrative tasks and promote independent living in care settings.

Health and Social Care Secretary Steve Barclay commented: "We are rolling out more cutting-edge AI technology across the NHS to help with quicker, more accurate diagnosis of lung cancer because patients deserve the best care possible.

"AI is already being used in the NHS to halve treatment times for stroke patients and to assist doctors in analysing brain scans, reducing the time between admission and treatment by more than one hour - saving valuable staff time and improving patient recovery. We're building on this success to make sure lung cancer patients get the support they need when they need it."

The national director of transformation at NHS England, Dr Vin Diwakar, also noted that AI is already saving lives by facilitating faster diagnoses and emergency treatments for conditions like strokes and heart attacks. The investment of £21 million will enable 64 NHS trusts to harness the power of AI in diagnosing and treating lung cancer.

After a string of successful integrations into patient care, the NHS has decided to follow it up with the recent AI technology infusion.

In fact, in over 90 per cent of stroke networks in England, the NHS has introduced AI tools that manage to cut treatment times and greatly reduce wait times. One company, Brainomix e-Stroke, succeeded in diagnosing stroke patients quicker and improving patient outcomes by using AI to analyse brain scans.

Naturally, there are challenges and considerations when applying AI to any industry. And the roundtable definitely did not miss out on this part. The one thing that everyone agreed on was the importance of deploying and regulating AI safely within healthcare systems. They want to make sure they have a good grip before letting it take full control.

So what's their solution? It is introducing a system called AI-Airlock which lets innovators test their AI technology in NHS settings before getting regulatory approval so that it could help patients benefit from emerging tech sooner.

Additionally, the University Hospitals Birmingham NHS Foundation Trust and the University of Birmingham, with support from the NHS AI Lab and The Health Foundation, have developed international standards to ensure that AI systems are built using diverse and inclusive datasets to avoid potential biases and enhance transparency.

In a prior announcement, the UK government pledged £30 million to support the adoption of innovative technology in the NHS. This funding aims to accelerate diagnoses, cut waiting lists and enhance patient care through innovative medical technology, including virtual wards and wearable devices.

One other remarkable application of AI in healthcare was highlighted at Kettering General Hospital. AI was used to optimise bed allocation, a task often likened to a game of Tetris, ensuring patients receive the right care with the available resources under tight time constraints. This innovation demonstrates the broad potential of AI in improving various aspects of healthcare operations.

The deployment of AI in NHS hospitals for lung cancer diagnosis is a pivotal step towards transforming healthcare in the UK. While the benefits are evident, addressing regulatory and ethical challenges remains crucial to ensure the safe and effective integration of AI in healthcare.

The newfound focus on transparency and inclusivity in AI development is a positive sign, promising a future where AI supports healthcare professionals in delivering the best possible care to patients across the nation.