The UK government is to set up a national artificial intelligence laboratory, accompanied by £250m in funding to help boost the role of AI within the health service.

Health Secretary, Matt Hancock, said “The power of artificial intelligence to improve medicine, to save lives, to improve the way treatments are done, that power is enormous. In this country, we’ve got the opportunity to be one of the leading countries in the world at using this new technology.”

Five million people are 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 be 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 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.”