AI to speed up lung cancer diagnosis deployed in NHS hospitals

£21 million is being allocated to 64 NHS trusts across England to roll out AI tools to speed up the diagnosis and treatment of lung cancer 

  • AI tools to help NHS staff analyse X-rays and CT scans expected to be in place by winter, increasing efficiency and cutting waiting times  
  • Health and Social Care Secretary hosts AI roundtable with industry leaders to drive forward innovation in health and social care  

Ground-breaking artificial intelligence (AI) that can help clinicians diagnose lung cancer quickly and accurately is being rolled out in NHS hospitals across England following a £21 million funding boost from the government. 

The funding is being allocated to 64 NHS trusts across all regions of the country so they can deploy AI tools that analyse X-rays and CT scans, speeding up diagnosis and treatments for patients.  

With over 600,000 chest X-rays performed each month in England, the deployment of this technology to more NHS trusts will support clinicians in their work with quicker, more accurate diagnosis of conditions. 

The new tools will start being deployed in NHS hospitals for winter, which will help to ease pressures on the NHS and free up staff time. 

The Health and Social Care Secretary hosted a roundtable with NHS trusts, industry leaders and health officials today to identify ways of speeding up the roll out of AI in health and social care. 

Discussions focused on the safe deployment of AI to help cut waiting lists and relieve pressure on hospitals, free up staff time by automating admin tasks, and support people in care settings to live more independently. 

Health and Social Care Secretary Steve Barclay said:    

"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."

Dr Vin Diwakar, national director of transformation at NHS England, said:

"Artificial intelligence is already helping to save lives from faster diagnosis of a stroke allowing faster emergency treatment to providing patients with their personalised risk of a heart attack allowing their clinicians to intervene earlier.

"This investment will allow 64 NHS trusts from across the country to harness the power of AI to tools to speed up the diagnosis and treatment of lung cancer."

The use of AI in the NHS is already having a positive impact on outcomes for patients. AI tools are now live in over 90% of stroke networks in England - halving the time for stroke victims to get treatment in some cases, helping to cut waiting times. 

For example, Brainomix e-Stroke uses AI to analyse brain scans of people who have had strokes to assist doctors with diagnosis and treatment decisions. Early studies have shown Brainomix can reduce the time between a patient arriving at hospital after they’ve had a stroke, to receiving treatment by more than one hour through providing instant interpretations of brain scans to help guide treatment and transfer decisions for stroke patients faster. The studies also showed it can triple the number of people achieving functional independence after having a stroke, from 16% to 48%, through allow allowing more patients to get the right treatment, in the right place, at the right time. 

The roundtable, held at the Department of Health and Social Care, also focused on the importance of safely deploying AI across the health and care system, placing emphasis on regulation and ethics.  

AI has the potential to transform patient care in the NHS, but does not always lend itself to traditional methods of demonstrating evidence for effectiveness. The Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency is rolling out a world-leading partnership between government, regulators and industry which will see advanced AI technology used in NHS settings safely ahead of regulatory approval – allowing NHS patients to benefit earlier from emerging technology before it is available anywhere else in the world. 

This system, known as AI-Airlock, will open for products in April 2024 and will allow innovators to test the technology in NHS settings, helping to generate data quickly on its effectiveness. This will prioritise patient safety while encouraging innovation at pace within the industry - meaning there is no delay in patients benefiting from potentially lifesaving technology between regulatory approval and deployment. 

Alongside this, a team at the University Hospitals Birmingham NHS Foundation Trust and University of Birmingham has released new international standards, supported by the NHS AI Lab and The Health Foundation, to ensure AI systems are developed using diverse and inclusive datasets that can benefit all demographic groups. The team worked with over 350 stakeholders from more than 58 countries to build recommendations on how data should be recorded and used for AI, helping to boost transparency and address any potential biases.  

The government has already invested £123 million into 86 AI technologies, which is helping patients by supporting stroke diagnosis, screening, cardiovascular monitoring and managing conditions at home.

Department of Health and Social Care
The Rt Hon Steve Barclay MP