Diagnostic services in Cheshire and Merseyside win funding to accelerate the use of AI to help diagnose lung cancer patients quicker

An X-ray of a chest
An X-ray of a chest

NHS Cheshire and Merseyside’s Radiology Imaging Network (CAMRIN) has secured funding from the NHS Transformation Directorate’s AI Diagnostic Fund to accelerate the deployment of AI to help diagnose lung cancer patients quicker.

Up to £1.2m has been awarded to Cheshire and Merseyside to accelerate the implementation of an AI imaging and support tool which 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% of patients (just over 11,000) are diagnosed at an early stage. Unfortunately, 44% of cases (almost 19,000) are not caught until a late stage when the survival rate is below 10%. The National Cancer Programme aims to tackle this, as part of their long-term plan, by diagnosing 75% 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.

Out of the 43,000 new lung cancers diagnosed in the UK every year, 36% of these (almost 15,500) result from a direct GP referral for further investigations. CAMRIN’s AI for Chest X-Rays Project aims to reduce the time taken for Cheshire and Merseyside patients to receive a diagnosis and treatment, when referred by their GP. However, the benefits will be felt by all those receiving chest X-rays across the region, including patients travelling in from neighbouring areas.

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."

Dr Nik Barnes, CAMRIN Clinical Lead for Business Intelligence, Digital & Procurement added:


"CAMRIN's successful bid for AIDF funding is going to allow another exciting step towards integrating AI into everyday radiology workflows, it is with immense pride that CAMRIN stands at the forefront of this national initiative, expanding on our other artificial intelligence projects in imaging."

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."