Artificial intelligence to take over cancer diagnoses at UK hospitals

Artificial intelligence will help detect deadly diseases like cancer more rapidly thanks to a £50m NHS funding boost.

Cutting edge digital tools will lead to faster and more accurate diagnosis and more personalised treatments for patients, freeing up clinicians' time and saving lives.

The cash boost will scale up the work of existing Digital Pathology and Imaging Artificial Intelligence Centres of Excellence in Coventry Leeds and London, which were launched in 2018.

It will deliver digital upgrades to pathology and imaging services across an additional 38 NHS trusts benefiting 26.5 million patients across England.

Health and Social Care Secretary Matt Hancock said: "Technology is a force for good in our fight against the deadliest diseases – it can transform and save lives through faster diagnosis, free up clinicians to spend time with their patients and make every pound in the NHS go further.

"I am determined we do all we can to save lives by spotting cancer sooner.

"Bringing the benefits of artificial intelligence to the frontline of our health service with this funding is another step in that mission. We can support doctors to improve the care we provide and make Britain a world-leader in this field."

He added: "The NHS is open and I urge anyone who suspects they have symptoms to book an appointment with their GP as soon as possible to benefit from our excellent diagnostics and treatments."

Today the government has also provided an update on the number of cancer diagnostic machines replaced in England since September 2019, when £200m was announced to help replace MRI machines, CT scanners and breast screening equipment, as part of the government’s commitment to ensure 55,000 more people survive cancer each year.

Some 69 scanners have now been installed and are in use, 10 more are being installed and 75 have been ordered or are ready to be installed.

The new funding is part of the government’s commitment to saving thousands more lives each year and detecting three-quarters of all cancers at an early stage by 2028.

Nightingale hospitals have been turned into mass screening centres and hospitals have successfully and quickly cared for patients urgently referred by their GP, with over 92% of urgent cancer referrals being investigated within 2 weeks, and 85,000 people starting treatment for cancer since the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic.

In June, 45,000 more people came forward for a cancer check and the public are urged if they are concerned about possible symptoms to contact their GP and get a check-up.

National Pathology Imaging Co-operative Director and Consultant Pathologist at Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust Darren Treanor said: "This investment will allow us to use digital pathology to diagnose cancer at 21 NHS trusts in the north, serving a population of six million people.

"We will also build a national network spanning another 25 hospitals in England, allowing doctors to get expert second opinions in rare cancers, such as childhood tumours, more rapidly. This funding puts the NHS in a strong position to be a global leader in the use of artificial intelligence in the diagnosis of disease."

Professor Reza Razavi, London Medical Imaging and AI Centre for Value-Based Healthcare Director, said: "Artificial intelligence technology provides significant opportunities to improve diagnostics and therapies as well as reduce administrative costs.

"With machine learning, we can use existing data to help clinicians better predict when disease will occur, diagnosing and treating it earlier, and personalising treatments, which will be less resource intensive and provides better health outcomes for our patients."

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