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The government has announced it is setting up a national artificial intelligence laboratory, accompanied by £250m in funding to help enhance patient care and research using AI.

The third announcement for the NHS from Boris Johnson’s government in as many days, the prime minister said the funding will help the NHS become a world leader in using artificial intelligence to improve healthcare.

The government said the National Artificial Intelligence Lab will “build cutting edge treatments for cancer, dementia and heart disease” by working on digital advances to improve the detection of diseases.

Johnson announced: “My task is to ensure the NHS has the funding it needs to make a real difference to the lives of staff and patients. Transforming care through artificial intelligence is a perfect illustration of that.”

Five million people to be offered a free personalised report based on their DNA, and the AI could be used to identify those most at-risk of life-threatening diseases, as well as upskilling the NHS workforce so they can use the new technologies.

Academics, specialists and technology companies will work within the lab to “harness the power of AI to improve the health and lives of patients.

The £250m funding will sit within the NHSX, the new unit tasked with digitally transforming the NHS, although the money will not begin being spent until 2021.

Simon Stevens, chief executive of NHS England, said that “carefully targeted AI” is now ready to used practically within the NHS, and praised the new announcement as “another step in the right direction to help the NHS become a world leader in using these important technologies.”

He commented: “In the first instance it should help personalise NHS screening and treatments for cancer, eye disease and a range of other conditions, as well as freeing up staff time, and our new NHS AI Lab will ensure the benefits of NHS data and innovation are fully harnessed for patients in this country.”

The chief executive of NHS Digital, Sarah Wilkinson, said: “We welcome the government’s clear ambition to become a world-leader in the use of AI within the health system, and look forward to supporting the next wave of AI-based initiatives which are commissioned through the new National Artificial Intelligence Lab.”



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