The UK government has approved a £133 million investment package in cutting-edge gene therapies and the AI algorithms that power them in an attempt to improve the treatment of NHS patients suffering from cancers and degenerative brain diseases including dementia and Parkinson’s. It is hoped that investing in pioneering biotech diagnostics and treatments will ultimately reduce NHS costs by allowing for earlier treatment and ultimately saving lives.
Of the total funds approved, £50 million will be invested into improving the NHS’s diagnostics services. The money will be spent on developing “cutting-edge products using digital systems and artificial intelligence”. The rest of the funds will be split between:
- £7.5 million invested in research into improving adult social care.
- £14 million towards technologies for treating conditions such as osteoarthritis and developing new vaccines.
- £12 million for an ‘advanced pain discovery platform’.
- £30 million to develop new therapies and technologies to treat diseases including cancer, Huntingdon’s, and Parkinson’s.
Commenting on the decision to invest significant sums of public money into developing new biotech and digital treatments and solutions, health secretary Matt Hancock said:
“We’ve got to bring NHS technology into the 21st century. I’ve seen for myself how better technology and diagnosis can save clinicians’ time so they can concentrate on care. The NHS is now spearheading world-leading technologies that can transform and save lives through new treatments, diagnosis techniques and care.”
Business secretary Andrea Leadsom added:
“Chronic and painful illnesses like arthritis and Parkinson’s are dreadful and prevent people from living a full life. Curing these kinds of debilitating illnesses is one of the great challenges we face globally and today’s commitment will play a vital role in ensuring that our scientists and thinkers have the tools they need to find new treatments that will support people to lead longer, healthier lives.”
And in another sign of the growing role of digitalisation and tech in the way the NHS operates, the service has initiated a campaign to encourage doctors and nurses to take on the role of ‘social media influencers’. It hopes that NHS staff can make a telling contribution to popularising the new NHS app, which was launched in January. The app allows anyone registered with the NHS to access information on health topics, book appointments with their GP or a specialist, order repeat prescriptions, access their GP records or even register as an organ donor.