News round-up 18 March

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17th March 2022 about a 4 minute read

The use of AI as a clinical diagnostic aid continues apace. The latest AI tool to be adopted by NHS trusts can analyse heart MRIs in just 20 seconds. Maternity units, for a long time the Cinderella of the NHS when it comes to digitisation, are receiving funding to implement electronic patient records. A new report on ageing highlights inequalities in health outcomes, while the government announces a strategy to tackle racial disparities in health care and elsewhere.

NHS adopts AI tool that can analyse heart MRIs in just 20 seconds

A new artificial intelligence (AI) tool that can analyse heart MRI scans in just 20 seconds – compared to the 13 minutes it would take a doctor – is being rolled out to NHS trusts.

The tool, developed by researchers at University College London, is also able to detect changes to the heart structure and function with 40% greater precision than a human can, and to extract more information. A study published in the Journal of Cardiovascular Magnetic Resonance found that it had superior precision to three clinicians.

The technology is being used on more than 140 patients a week at University College London (UCL) Hospital, Barts Heart Centre at St Bartholomew’s Hospital, and Royal Free Hospital.

Life expectancy is falling

Since last year, life expectancy has dropped by 0.3 years for women and 0.4 years for men, according to a new report from the Centre for Ageing Better.

The report, The State of Ageing 2022, also finds that the number of years we can expect to spend in good health, without a disabling illness, is continuing to decline. It is now 62.4 years for men and 60.9 years for women – a fall of approximately two years since 2006-8.

In the most deprived areas, the report found, people can expect to live more than 17 years more with disabling health conditions than those in the least deprived areas.

Government unveils strategy to tackle racial disparity

The government has set out a long-term strategy to address racial disparities in the UK, including disparities in health outcomes.

The plan, entitled Inclusive Britain, has 70 measures. Last year, the government created a new Office for Health Improvement and Disparities, which is leading cross-government work to address the causes of health inequalities (such as deprivation, tobacco, alcohol, diet and physical inactivity) which often disproportionately affect certain ethnic groups, and on the health disparities white paper. The new Office, along with NHS England and NHS Improvement, will consider and support evidence-based interventions to address the current disparities in maternal outcomes through the Maternity Disparities Taskforce. Later this year, the Department of Health and Social Care will publish a new strategy in a health disparities white paper for England.

The plan was developed in response to the Black Lives Matter protests in 2020.

Dumfries and Galloway completes pilot to share GP data

Dumfries and Galloway Health Board has completed a pilot project to to connect health providers with GP data.

The pilot used the Medical Interoperability Gateway, which provides access to patient data from 31 GP practices through the Orion patient portal. Dumfries and Galloway was the first health board in Scotland to implement the technology.

Since going live, there have been 40,000 transactions, providing a view of data from the GP record to secondary care clinicians. The data includes a patient summary as well as information about demographics, problems, diagnoses, medication, risk and warnings, procedures and investigations, encounters, admissions, and referrals.

128 maternity units awarded funds for digitisation

NHS England and Improvement’s Digital Maternity Fund has awarded funding to 128 health trusts to help roll out the digitisation of maternity units.

The trusts to receive funding include Bedfordshire Hospitals NHS FT  (£208,000), Birmingham Women’s Hospital (£500,000) and South Tees Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust (£800,000).

In South Tees, the money will be spent on improving inrastructure systems and connectivity, introducing a new maternity electronic patient record system and implementing supporting apps for the service.

In Bedfordshire, the funding will be used to help make data collection more consistent, and improve connectivity, while in Birmingham and Solihull, the Local Maternity and Neonatal System will use the funding to design and develop new iterations of its patient app, including making it more accessible for non-English speaking patients.