News, News in Brief

News in brief: Cancer AI diagnostic tool developed, rapid testing tech to be scaled, ICS place-based partnerships

Another week, another round of innovative and exciting health tech developments. Over the past seven days or so, we’ve seen Prostate Cancer Research announce partnerships with health tech start-ups, the launch of NICE’s new five-year strategy, and Alcidion’s acquisition of a patient flow software company.

We also reported this week that 17 NHS trusts have signed up for a cross-organisational diagnostic and image reporting platform, as well as confirming the June dates for our next HTN Now live event series. Phew!

But there’s been plenty going on outside of our main stories, too. So catch up on the latest news in brief with our round-up below, featuring AI diagnostic tools, another industry acquisition and rapid testing tech….

S12 Solutions acquired by VitalHub

Digital mental health platform S12 Solutions has been acquired by Toronto-based tech provider VitalHub.

Founded in 2017, S12 Solutions comprises a number of features that are aimed at helping mental health professions and clinicians to connect. These include Mental Health Act (MHA) assessment team organisation, electronic statutory MHA forms, electronic claims and video calling. The platform currently supports over 4,000 users.

Amy Manning, founder and Managing Director of S12 Solutions, said: “Mental health services are telling us that they are keen to explore the ways that digital can transform other MHA processes and care pathways, but it is important that digital solutions are developed and applied thoughtfully. Combining their insight, with our own and VitalHub’s resources and knowledge, will help us bring our users’ and sites’ ideas to life more effectively and efficiently than before.”

Tim Webster, Operations Director at S12 Solutions, added: “We are so proud of and thankful to our team for what they have achieved so far and we believe that VitalHub will help us continue to support our health and social care partners in the best way possible as the landscape evolves. Amy and I would also like to wholeheartedly thank our users and Site stakeholders for their ideas and support, and the many people and organisations that have shared their knowledge with and given their time to S12 Solutions over the last four years.”

Deadline for AI and racial inequalities research funding applications

There is less than one week left to apply for the Artificial Intelligence and Racial and Ethnic Inequalities in Health and Care funding call.

The programme supports research that looks to ‘advance artificial intelligence and data-driven technologies in health’, in ways that ‘better meet the needs of minority ethnic populations’, according to the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR).

As part of NHSX’s NHS AI Lab AI Ethics Initiative, it will provide funding for two areas of research: understanding and enabling the opportunities to use AI to address inequalities, and optimising datasets and improving AI development, testing and deployment.

Depending on the category and award, funding for successful projects could range from £175,000 up to £500,000.

The funding call is open to UK-based higher education institutions, third sector organisations, charities, and NHS organisations or providers of NHS or social care services, for projects that have a duration of between 12 to 24 months.

Applications close at 13pm on 28 April 2021.

The King’s Fund publishes guide on place-based partnerships

The King’s Fund has published a guiding document for local health and care leaders on how to establish place-based partnerships, in regard to the roll-out of integrated care systems (ICSs), which will encourage a more joined-up healthcare system across the country.

In a review published on its website, The King’s Fund looked at existing evidence about place-based working and engaged with local leaders from ICSs, local authorities and voluntary and community sector organisations to highlight and suggest how partnerships can be successfully implemented at a local level.

It’s hoped the establishment of these partnerships will be key in improving health and wellbeing services – with the report setting out a series of principles for this, as well as illustrating how each can be applied and providing examples of existing practice.

The King’s Fund principles cover:

  • Creating a shared local vision and understanding of each population and place
  • Building new relationships with communities to improve services, mobilise people and receive feedback
  • Investing in building multi-agency partnerships
  • Building on what already exists locally – such as agendas, relationships and structures
  • Focusing on relationships between systems, places and neighbourhoods
  • Nurturing joined-up resource management
  • Strengthening the roles of providers
  • Embedding effective place-based leadership.

The full report can be found online at

Cambridge cancer researchers develop AI diagnostic tool 

University of Cambridge scientists, funded by Cancer Research UK, have combined AI diagnostics with a new technique – called Cytosponge – to help diagnose Barrett’s oesophagus.

The pre-cancerous condition causes cells to grow abnormally and can increase the risk of people developing oesophageal cancer – but the scientists’ study of the diagnostic tool, recently published in Nature Medicine, could help free up pathologist time and assist with diagnosing cases.

According to Cancer Research UK, the Cytosponge innovation uses a ‘sponge on a string’ to collect cells from the oesophagus. These are then sent to a lab for testing, where pathologists can look for a biomarker which is linked to Barrett’s.

Previous research had suggested that the Cytosponge-TFF3 test can identify 10 times more people with Barrett’s oesophagus than GP care can – but that common use of the tool could also lead to a surge in demand and ‘bottlenecks’.

To try and avoid this, researchers applied deep-learning to Cytosponge samples taken from over 2,000 clinical trial participants. Images from the samples were analysed by the model and trained to understand which features indicated that Barrett’s oesophagus was present.

Pathologists then helped to make diagnosis less complicated for the AI by developing a ‘semi-automated triage system’. This meant each sample was categorised into different classes, depending on how clear the diagnosis was – with complicated cases passed on to human scientists for manual assessment instead.

Oxford Uni to scale up development of rapid testing tech

The University of Oxford has announced a multi-million-pound, collaborative project to scale up the development of rapid testing technology for infectious diseases.

An agreement has been signed between the University, Prenetics Limited, and the China-based Oxford Suzhou Centre for Advanced Research (OSCAR), to co-develop OxLAMPTM technology for worldwide use.

The OxLAMP rapid COVID-19 test provides rapid, portable results within 20 minutes – without a traditional lab. The rapid testing has already been used in some airports and the aim is to scale up its development to support global communities.

The three-year project will also include the establishment of a new Prenetics Innovation Technology Centre (ITC) for Advanced Molecular Diagnostics at the OSCAR in China.

Review finds telemedicine still not widely adopted in critical care

The Cochrane Review – completed by researchers at King College London’s Florence Nightingale Faculty of Nursing, Midwifery & Palliative Care, and Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust – has found that telemedicine is still not being widely adopted, despite advances in technology.

The two-year project analysed international evidence on the ‘implementation of remote diagnosis and treatment of patients using telecommunications’ in critical care settings.

In summary, the research team found that challenges around ‘accepting, adopting and using’ telemedicine in more complicated healthcare settings was creating a lag in this area – despite increased attention due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

According to King’s, concerns ranged from lack of staff training to lack of staffing. Based on the responses gathered during the project, the researchers made recommendations to help decision-makers to encourage adoption and implementation in ICUs – to help especially rural and remote areas to prepare for surges in demand for critical care.

The full report can be found on the Cochrane Library website.

NHS utilises Facebook to reach out to those at risk of diabetes

The NHS has turned to social media to connect with men aged over 40 – to warn them about their risk of developing Type 2 diabetes.

Using a combination of sponsored Facebook adverts and an online quiz by Diabetes UK, the NHS hopes to reach at-risk groups and encourage participation in the Healthier You NHS Diabetes Prevention Programme – which has over 2,000 places available to support people to lose weight.

Those who take the quiz and receive a moderate or high score can also self-refer themselves for online support from local services, without having to speak to a clinician.