NHS England is to mandate the use of an artificial intelligence powered tool to help fight coronary heart disease.

Heartflow Analysis will be adopted in English hospitals under the NHS England and Improvement MedTech funding mandate.

The mandate was first consulted on in December 2019, but its launch was delayed due to coronavirus. It will now come into effect on 1 April 2021, with the option to extend funding for up to three years until March 2024.

The policy mandate is expected to cost no more than £20 million over the first three years with a return saving of £25 million on patient care, based on National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) modelling.

Four health tech companies will be supported by the MedTech funding in 2021/22, with the aim to provide innovative medical devices and digital products to NHS patients faster.

They include:

  • Heartflow: a software which creates a 3D model of a patient’s coronary arteries and assesses the extent and location of blockages
  • placental growth factor based testing – a blood test to rule out pre-eclampsia in pregnant women
  • SecurAcath – for securing percutaneous catheters
  • gammaCore – a handheld device which alleviates the symptoms of severe cluster headaches

Academic Health and Science Networks (AHSNs) will be called upon to help NHS organisations implement the technologies and share learnings from organisations who have already adopted them.

HeartFlow uses data from a coronary CT angiography scan and to create a personalised, digital 3D model of the patient’s coronary arteries.

Its algorithms then simulate blood flow in a patient’s arteries to help clinicians assess the functional impact of any blockages.

The technology has the potential to eliminate invasive diagnostic procedures and help ensure those who do need the procedures are seen quicker.

Dr Timothy Fairbairn, consultant cardiologist at Liverpool Heart and Chest Hospital, said: “In our practice, four out of five patients who have a HeartFlow Analysis avoid the need for further invasive testing. This enables us to treat patients more quickly, leading to an improved patient experience and has had a positive impact on our waiting times for other non-invasive stress tests.

“The MedTech Funding Mandate allowed us to have a positive conversation with our commissioners, emphasising the real benefits our practice has experienced and secure funding for continued use of the HeartFlow Analysis going forward”

Lance Scott, chief commercial officer at HeartFlow, added: “Since 2018, we’ve processed more than 15,000 HeartFlow Analyses for NHSE patients, helping cardiology services prioritise invasive treatments for those who need it most.

“This has also contributed to a better patient experience, reducing unnecessary procedures and the time to diagnosis. Many patients can also receive a diagnosis and treatment plan after just one trip to the hospital, helping to reduce risks and face-to-face contact time during the ongoing pandemic.”

All technologies included in the first year of the mandate have previously been supported by the Innovation Technology Payment in a bid to reduce burden on the NHS.

NICE will continue to assess medical technologies and devices with the potential to meet MedTech funding criteria.