Why NHS Trusts must be supported to fully unlock the power of AI

By Clarissa Pattinson, Diagnostics Sourcing Manager at HealthTrust Europe

It is vital that the NHS is positioned to effectively implement and utilise innovations in medical technologies and artificial intelligence (AI), so that providers have access to safe, efficient, and trusted digital solutions that streamline patient care.

Although awareness of the benefits that AI and digital solutions can deliver is increasing, as demonstrated by the recent UK AI Safety Summit, the rollout of these technologies remains slow. The Government’s commitment to providing £30 million of investment to the NHS for innovative technology is one crucial step toward accelerating its uptake. This is in addition to the previously announced £21 million of funding ringfenced for investing in AI solutions to support diagnostics and treatment of patients in the NHS. 

These sums will go some distance in ensuring patients are able to be treated swiftly and safely, but there is also a vital role for the procurement sector to play in realising these ambitions. As the market place for providers of these solutions is flooded with organisations able to deliver effective yet unique AI solutions, it is essential that NHS Trusts are effectively supported to fully understand and use these opportunities so that these new investments make a meaningful difference in the delivery of care for their patients. 

The rise of AI is the latest example of where the procurement sector has a vital role to play. At HealthTrust Europe, we are connecting NHS Trusts with pre-vetted and leading suppliers in the AI space, so they can effectively access the innovative technologies that make a positive difference in improving patient outcomes. 

Our recent work with PathLAKE Plus – a consortium of 19 NHS Trusts which brought AI capabilities into digital pathology – is the latest example of effective partnerships between the NHS and the procurement sector. Here, we brought together the expertise of AI diagnosis capabilities with the expert knowledge of leading clinicians with the intention of reducing delays in cancer diagnostics while increasing the speed of information sharing across clinical disciplines. Due to the lack of any existing precedent for such a project, we needed to collaborative with the clinical leads within the NHS Trusts. Through working in partnership, we developed individual requirements for various types of clinical AI Solutions which support rapid diagnostics for various tissue types, such as breast, prostate and lymphnode. 

The impact of this procurement will be significant – not only supporting the reporting pathologists in their vital role, but also improving efficiencies across the participating trusts.

While PathLAKE plus demonstrates the power of AI, the potential for machine learning to enhance the delivery of care in other clinical areas is yet to be fully realised. The government and industry are showing an increasing appetite for embedding these solutions throughout the health service from corporate departments to front line care delivery. This is creating a renewed focus on the strengths of the procurement sector, and the role companies like HealthTrust Europe can play to enable NHS Trusts to capture the benefits of this new dawn for technology healthcare – just as was demonstrated by PathLAKE Plus. 

Fresh funding packages and new commitments to implementing AI within the NHS are to be welcomed, but the wider sector must not lose sight of the need for NHS Trusts to be effectively supported to reap the clinical benefits that these emerging AI solutions offer. In doing so, healthcare providers will be able to deliver efficiencies that relieve the pressures facing a stretched workforce, and secure the NHS’s future as a resilient world leader in healthcare.


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