Bradford Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust creates clinical AI role

It follows the trust's recent work with GE Healthcare on creating an AI-driven command centre.
By Cara Dartnell-Steinberg
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Furthering their vision of delivering the most effective patient care, Bradford Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust has appointed Dr Tom Lawton as the new head of clinical AI. This is the first role of its kind in an NHS trust, although nearly half are investing in innovative AI technology for patient services. 

WHY IT MATTERS

Lawton, a consultant in critical care and anaesthesia, is familiar with healthcare technology, having worked as a medical informatics officer and being part of the team at the Bradford Institute of Health Research.

The employment of a clinician, who has experienced the infrastructure and regulations of the NHS in this role, promises that the use of AI technology remains within the framework and safeguards of the government and the NHS.

As the recent Topol Review underlined, in order to integrate AI safely and effectively in a clinical setting, it is essential to have more AI specialists in health and care. Despite the benefits of AI, it is clear that its most advantageous when used in tandem with a trained individual, responsible for ensuring data quality, fairness, accountability and privacy.

By investing in its existing staff, the NHS will benefit from a workforce that is increasingly skilled in digital technology, as well as possessing in-depth knowledge of the country’s healthcare system through experience working on hospital wards and being at the forefront of care delivery.

THE LARGER TREND

Bradford Teaching Hospitals recently collaborated with GE Healthcare to create an AI-driven hospital command centre, incorporating innovatory models established in America into the NHS.

The swell of patient volume and government cuts on NHS funding have put substantial pressure on the resources of the trust. It is the hope of the trust that the new role and Command Centre can relieve this strain by allowing staff to make more rapid decisions on patient care and reducing unnecessary delays in patients being discharged from hospital. 

These actions mark substantial advances in the incorporation of technology to streamline the delivery and organisation of care. The use of AI lessens the time staff spend organising care and permits them to devote more to delivering and improving it.

Meanwhile, the UK government continues to incentivise industry and healthcare experts to learn about digital innovation. Appointing Dr Lawton as the new head of clinical AI at Bradford is an important step in the incorporation of AI technology into the day-to-day delivery of health care services, with the trust hoping to employ cloud technology in their future AI ambitions.

ON THE RECORD

"To leverage the full benefits of AI, we need to make sure there is a better translation of the technology from the labs to our own wards and departments," Dr Lawton said in a statement. "For us, that means harnessing the experience of our clinicians to pinpoint first where the needs are.

"This means AI delivering solutions to real life issues facing our wards and departments. Too often, I’ve seen a system that is brimming with world class technology in the lab, but which isn’t fit-for-purpose in a hospital setting because those behind it hadn’t engaged with clinicians."