AI in Health and Care Award launches in the UK

One hundred and forty million pounds will be made available over the next three years to scale up AI technologies across the NHS.
By Leontina Postelnicu
12:08 PM

Innovators in England are now able to submit their applications for a new AI in Health and Care Award launched by health secretary Matt Hancock to speed up testing, evaluation and adoption of the “most promising” AI technologies for healthcare.

The initiative will see £140 million be made available during the next three years, with a call for applications running twice a year.

Initially, the award will focus on four areas: screening, diagnosis, clinical decision support and system efficiency.

Run by the Accelerated Access Collaborative, NHSX and the National Institute for Health Research, it forms part of the £250m announcement made in August to support the creation of an AI Lab for the health service.

WHY IT MATTERS

“Too many good ideas in the NHS never make it past the pilot stage,” Hancock said in a speech at the Parliament & Healthtech conference in London on Tuesday.

“NHS Improvement estimate that it takes 17 years on average for a new product or device to go from successful clinical trial to mainstream adoption. Seventeen years. That is far too long,” he continued. “We need a culture that rewards and incentivises adoption as well as invention.”

With the new award, innovators will be supported through the following phases: technical feasibility, development and evaluation, real world testing, initial health system adoption, and national scale-up.

THE LARGER PICTURE

In addition to the announcement made regarding the NHS AI Lab, the health secretary tried to address in his speech the concerns of the so-called “tech-sceptics” – those saying that other areas, such as workforce or infrastructure, should be prioritised, as well as those pushing to “fix the basics first”.  

“If you work in the NHS, in any part of the service, far too often old, out-of-date 20th century technology gets in the way of your ability to do your job. So I completely get why some people think now is not the time to be talking genomics, automation and AI,” Hancock said.

But added: “I respectfully disagree. Because that’s a bit like saying that we shouldn’t explore space when we’ve got climate change to deal with on earth. Which sounds attractive until you consider that much of our knowledge about climate change is beamed down from satellites.

“The point is that sometimes the cutting edge can help us solve those bread-and-butter problems and move us to a new generation of solutions.”

Earlier this month, the government announced that £40 million would be provided for a new project to reduce computer login times – with clinicians at some sites reporting that they have to log into as many as 15 different systems when caring for a patient.

“Better technology is vital to have and embracing it is the only way to make the NHS sustainable over the long term,” Hancock said.

More information about the AI in Health and Care Award can be found here.