MORE than £1 million has been awarded to accelerate the deployment of AI to help diagnose lung patients cancer quicker in Cheshire and Merseyside.

NHS Cheshire and Merseyside’s Radiology Imaging Network (CAMRIN) has secured funding from the NHS Transformation Directorate’s AI Diagnostic Fund.

The money will be used to accelerate the implementation of an AI imaging and support tool that can analyse chest X-ray images and identify possible signs of lung cancer.

The tool, which will be rolled out to nine acute and specialist NHS trusts across Cheshire and Merseyside, can identify nodules and masses on chest X-rays to both ensure those patients can be prioritised and reduce the administrative burden on clinical staff.

The AI Diagnostic Fund has provided a total of £21m in funding to 11 out of 22 imaging networks across England, for the implementation of AI for chest X-ray and CT reporting, with the aim of increasing the country’s diagnostic capability, through innovation.

Currently, more than 43,000 new lung cancers are diagnosed in the UK every year, but only 26 per cent of patients (just over 11,000) are diagnosed at an early stage.

Unfortunately, 44 per cent of cases (almost 19,000) are not caught until a late stage when the survival rate is below 10 per cent.

The National Cancer Programme aims to tackle this, as part of their long-term plan, by diagnosing 75 per cent of all cancers at an early stage by 2028, which is predicted to prevent around 55,000 avoidable deaths per year by allowing treatment plans and interventions to start sooner.

Dr John Mullany, consultant radiologist and CAMRIN Clinical Lead for AI said: “With the escalating demands placed upon radiology departments, it is imperative to harness every available tool that holds the promise of enhancing patient outcomes and bolstering productivity.

“The successful allocation of funding through our bid from the AIDF signifies a pivotal moment.

“This funding will facilitate the procurement of cutting-edge artificial intelligence software, with the potential to advance chest X-ray reporting, in terms of both accuracy and speed.

“This technology has the potential to redefine the patient journey.”

Speaking about the AI Diagnostic Fund, Professor Stephen Powis, NHS National Medical Director, said: “The NHS is already harnessing the benefits of AI across the country in helping to catch and treat major diseases earlier, as well as better managing waiting lists so patients can be seen quicker.

“As we approach 76 years of the National Health Service this year, this is another example of how the NHS is continuing its proud history of adopting the latest proven technology, to deliver better care for patients and better value for taxpayers.”