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UK Government to Support Rollout of Digital Pathology Across the NHS

NEW YORK – The UK government and England's National Health Service (NHS) announced on Friday they will support UK National Screening Committee (NSC) recommendations to allow the expanded use of digital pathology across the NHS.

According to government officials, the increased use of digital pathology will hasten identification and diagnosis of breast, bowel, and cervical cancers.

"While we are already using some digital innovations to improve the accuracy of cancer diagnosis, we look forward to further utilizing digital pathology imagery for the benefit of screening patients," Steve Russel, national director of vaccinations and screening at NHS England, said in a statement.

NSC officials said during a meeting in November 2023 that the organization determined it would support laboratories' use of digital pathology in cancer screening as an allowed modification to light microscopy, according to draft minutes published by the government. The UK Department of Health and Social Care is enacting the NSC's recommendations.

The government said the move will help clinicians secure second opinions on the presence of cancer in samples and enable laboratories to work more efficiently and quickly. It will also allow off-site work by laboratory officials and support easier and faster cancer diagnoses. Health Minister Andrew Stephenson said in a statement that the NHS is seeing and treating record numbers of cancer patients. Increased use of digital pathology will help the NHS "go further and faster" in patient care.

The UK government has previously supported the expanded use of digital pathology, including announcing in 2020 it would spend £50 million ($66.6 million) to support digital pathology and imaging artificial intelligence centers of excellence. It said at the time that three centers would use the money to implement digital upgrades to pathology and imaging services across 38 NHS trusts.

The UK has set a goal of detecting 75 percent of cancers at an early stage by 2028.