Boris Johnson gives NHS £250m artificial intelligence boost as election speculation mounts

Posted On: 
8th August 2019

Boris Johnson has pledged £250m to boost the use of artificial intelligence in the NHS.

Matt Hancock and Boris Johnson visited an NHS hospital earlier this week.
Credit: 
PA

The Prime Minister said the funding would be aimed at "freeing up staff to care for patients" and improving the detection of diseases such as cancer and dementia.

The move represents the third NHS announcement from Mr Johnson in as many days - increasing speculation that the new government is laying the groundwork for an election in the autumn.

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A new national AI lab will be set up to lead research into improving patient care, overseen by a rebadged technology-focused wing of the health service called NHS X.

Mr Johnson said the announcement was "not just about the future of care" and would have a knock-on effect for those working in the NHS.

"It will also boost the frontline by automating admin tasks and freeing up staff to care for patients," he said.

"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."

Health Secretary Matt Hancock, who has long talked-up the benefits of technology in the NHS, said: "We are on the cusp of a huge health tech revolution that could transform patient experience by making the NHS a truly predictive, preventive and personalised health and care service.

"I am determined to bring the benefits of technology to patients and staff, so the impact of our NHS Long Term Plan and this immediate, multimillion pound cash injection are felt by all. It’s part of our mission to make the NHS the best it can be."

NHS England's chief executive Simon Stevens said that the "carefully-targeted" use of AI marked "another step in the right direction" for the health service.

He added: "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."

According to Health Service Journal, the new money will not begin being spent until 2021.

Mr Johnson has already pledged £1.8bn towards maintaining and rebuilding hospitals.

That announcement sparked a row, however, with health experts branding it a "drop in the ocean" and Labour pointing out that some of the money had been recycled from existing hospital budgets.

The Government also announced a shake-up of NHS pension rules this week in a bid to stop senior doctors from turning down shifts to avoid being penalised by a tax on their contributions.