NHS England will invest in artificial intelligence (AI) over the next 12 months, NHS England Chief Executive Simon Stevens told delegates at the Health and Care Innovation Expo in Manchester.
Backing Sir John Bell’s recommendations from the Life Sciences Industrial strategy, Stevens said the NHS needs to ‘get smarter’ in their use of AI and machine learning to improve quality of care:
“John Bell’s report identified the faster application of AI in the NHS as one of the four big winds that we could potentially support and without doubt we will see as we make the case for public investment and NHS investment in this area, this will be one where NHS England will be backing that with our investment over the course of the next 12 months.”
NHS England's National Medical Director, Professor Bruce Keogh, who is stepping down at the end of the year to become the Chair of Birmingham Women’s and Children’s NHS Foundation Trust, also put a big focus on AI in his keynote speech at the conference.
NHS a ‘hotbed of innovation’
Stevens talked about four areas where the NHS will be putting their ‘shoulders to the wheel’, confirming that NHS England will start working with NHS Digital and other stakeholders to identify three to five digital innovation hubs across the country that will start using datasets, as proposed in the Life Sciences Industrial strategy, published this August.
“So today, NHS England is explicitly nailing its colours to the mast in backing those recommendations from John Bell’s report and we will by the end of the calendar year set out the process we will be using with our partners at NHS Digital and elsewhere to identify the three to five locations across the country that will go live with those digital innovation hubs.”
Further announcements included an extended period of two years of funding for test beds announced in 2016.
Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt, speaking at the same conference, announced that 18 NHS trusts will become fast followers to Global Digital Exemplars (GDEs), each receiving up to £5m in funding that will have to be matched. Seven mental health trusts will also take part in the scheme, buddying up with mental health GDEs, with funding worth up to £21m that will also have to be locally matched.
Stevens added: “I defy anyone who says the NHS is stuck in the mud or slow in its ways, actually, the NHS is a hotbed of innovation, but clearly as we think out over the next three, five years, we need to go further, faster, and accelerate what that looks like.”