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‘Gold standard’ code of conduct for AI in the NHS

The government has announced the launch of a new code of conduct for artificial intelligence (AI) and other data-driven technologies that, it says, will ensure that only the best and safest systems are used by the NHS and will protect patient data.


The code encourages technology companies to meet a ‘gold standard’ set of principles to protect patient data to the highest standards. It has been drawn up with the help of industry, academics and patient groups.


The aim is to make it easier for suppliers to develop technologies that tackle some of the biggest issues in healthcare, such as dementia, obesity and cancer. It will also help health and care providers choose safe, effective and secure technology to improve the services they provide.


The code aims to:

* Promote the UK as the best place in the world to invest in healthtech

* Provide evidence of what good practice looks like to industry and commissioners

* Reassure patients and clinicians that data-driven technology is safe, effective and maintains privacy

* Allow the government to work with suppliers to guide the development of new technology so products are suitable for the NHS in the future

* Make sure the NHS gets a fair deal from the commercialisation of its data resources.


The code will also mean the NHS is fairly rewarded for allowing companies access to its data pool to build life-saving artificial intelligence systems.


The code is made up of 10 principles that set out how the government will make it easier for companies to work with the NHS to develop new technologies and what the NHS expects in return.


It will be regularly updated in partnership with industry and stakeholders to ensure it keeps pace with the market.


AI technology is already being used across the NHS to improve the early diagnosis of heart disease and lung cancer, to reduce the number of unnecessary operations performed due to false positives, assist research by better matching patients to clinical trials, and support the planning of care for patients with complex needs. 


Health and Social Care Secretary Matt Hancock says: “Artificial intelligence has the potential to save lives, but also brings challenges that must be addressed.


“We need to create an ecosystem of innovation to allow this type of technology to flourish in the NHS and support our incredible workforce to save lives, by equipping clinicians with the tools to provide personalised treatments.


“AI must be used responsibly and our code of conduct sets a gold-standard set of rules to ensure patient data is always protected and the systems we use are some of the safest in the world.”


Dr Simon Eccles, Chief Clinical Information Officer for Health and Care, adds: “Parts of the NHS have already shown the potential impact AI could have in the future of the NHS in reading scans, for example, to enable clinicians to focus on the most difficult cases.


“This new code sets the bar companies will need to meet to bring their products into the NHS so we can ensure patients can benefit from not just the best new technology, but also the safest and most secure.”


The ten principles are:

To understand users, their needs and the context

To define the outcome and how the technology will contribute to it

To use data that is in line with appropriate guidelines for the purpose for which it is being used

To be fair, transparent and accountable about what data is being used

To make use of open standards

To be transparent about the limitations of the data used and algorithms deployed

To show what type of algorithm is being developed or deployed, the ethical examination of how the data is used, how its performance will be validated and how it will be integrated into health and care provision

To generate evidence of effectiveness for the intended use and value for money

To make security integral to the design

To define the commercial strategy.


More detail about each of these principles is available here.