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Oscar Williams

News editor

Google DeepMind warns that the NHS lacks the resources to make the most of AI

The NHS lacks the resources to embrace the benefits of artificial intelligence, DeepMind – Google’s London-based AI division – has warned.

In a written submission to the House of Lords AI select committee, the firm said the UK’s clinical expertise and cutting-edge AI research mean there is great potential for AI in the NHS.

But it added that the health service is ill-equipped to make the most of the technology, which it claims could reduce the burden of caring for an ageing population.

“In our experience, the NHS currently is not able to set aside resources to explore in full the potential that AI holds, which leaves clinicians and other healthcare professionals ill-equipped to make the most of these opportunities,” the submission stated.

“As the NHS will face increasing pressures from an ageing population with more complex healthcare needs, AI technologies could help alleviate some of these pressures,” it added.

DeepMind is calling for universities and hospitals to establish more partnerships to boost the NHS’s understanding of AI technology, and it is encouraging medical schools to make clinical informatics part of undergraduate and postgraduate medical training.

“We believe that one of the most effective interventions Government could make to help society and the NHS benefit from AI would be to provide funds to allow the NHS to produce open, accessible datasets that Trusts can use to validate the applicability of new algorithms to NHS patient care,” it said.

“By reducing barriers to entry for research, whilst still ensuring safety, security and appropriate controls, the Government could help increase the amount of research and therefore the potential for clinically beneficial AI breakthroughs, which could help patients, clinicians and the NHS,” it added.

DeepMind is considered to be one of the leading centres of AI research internationally. But it came under fire last year after it emerged that it had received 1.6 million patients’ data from the Royal Free Foundation Trust.

The Information Commissioner’s Office ruled in July that the Free had failed to comply with the Data Protection Act when it handed over the data. But it opted not to fine the hospital for breaching the law.