Artificial Intelligence (AI) holds enormous potential for the NHS, if we can use it right. It can reduce the burden on the system by taking on the tasks that can be converted into an algorithm. Many of these are in areas of greatest pressure, like radiography and pathology. It could improve patient outcomes, and increase productivity across the system, freeing up clinicians’ time so they can focus on the parts of the job where they add the most value.
But doing AI right means putting a set of rules around it that will make sure it is done safely, in a way that respects patients’ privacy and keeps the confidence of citizens and staff. Some of those rules already exist - like the 2018 Data Protection Act, for example, which put GDPR into UK law. But there are gaps, lots of regulators on the pitch, and a lack of clarity on both standards and roles.
In all this, the NHS AI Lab will play an important role, not least as a source of funding for regulators to stand up the capability they need to do this work. The lab will have regulation as one of its core streams of activity.
It’s a huge agenda. But it really matters, and we need to move this all forward at pace. The prize - if we can get this right - is making the UK a world leader in AI for health, giving the NHS the benefits of this new technology safely, reducing the burden on its staff and improving outcomes for patients.
|Attendees at 28 January meeting: