Sixty four trusts are to get a share of a £21m AI Diagnostic Fund that has been allocated to roll out artificial intelligence (AI) tools to help speed up the diagnosis and treatment of lung cancer.

Health and Social Care Secretary Steve Barclay announced the funding in June this year, and it is now being allocated to the NHS trusts.

Trusts set to receive a share of the money include Liverpool Women’s NHS Foundation Trust; Mid And South Essex NHS Foundation Trust; James Paget University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust; Hull University Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust; Ashford And St Peter’s Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust; Warrington And Halton Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust; and Sherwood Forest Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust.

The funding will help support the wider rollout of AI tools that can help healthcare staff analyse x-rays and CT scans. In turn, this will help to increase efficiency, ensure patients receive prompt diagnosis and cut down on waiting times.

With the AI Diagnostic Fund being shared now, the AI tools are set to be deployed ahead of the winter, helping ease seasonal pressure on the healthcare system.

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.”

AI roundtable

The health and social care secretary also hosted an AI roundtable with industry leaders to help drive forward innovations in the sector. Those present included representatives from NHS trusts, industry leaders and health officials, all tasked with the job of identifying ways to speed up the rollout of AI in healthcare.

Discussions were focused on how AI tools can be safely deployed in a bid to cut lengthy waiting lists and relieve pressure on hospitals, as well as the automation of tasks to free up staff, and how best to support people in care settings to live more independently.

AI regulation

The roundtable also tackled the topic of regulation and ethics of artificial intelligence. This comes ahead of the planned Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) system deployment of AI-Airlock, which will see the technology used in NHS settings before regulatory approval.

AI-Airlock will allow innovators to test their technology in NHS settings, helping to generate data quickly on how effective it is. While patient safety will be prioritised, it will also help to encourage innovation at pace, and will mean no delays in patients benefitting from new technology.

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.”