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Trusts to use AI to reduce skin cancer backlog and increase efficiency

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NHS trusts across England are set to ramp up access to dermatology with the rollout of AI to fast-track identifying potential skin cancers.

Nine NHS trusts have been funded to pilot Skin Analytics’ AI medical device to detect cancerous skin lesions, with around 45,000 patients benefiting from this groundbreaking technology by the summer when skin cancer referrals are at their highest.

The device, DERM, is currently in use by 12 NHS trusts and primary care providers across England, and to date has been used in pathways that have seen more than 81,000 patients and identified more than 8,500 cancers.

It is proven to triage potentially cancerous skin lesions so that patients can be diagnosed and treated earlier.

It does this by assessing an image of a skin lesion and then classifying its type within seconds.

It is trained to classify 11 different lesion types including the most common malignant, pre-malignant, and benign skin lesions.

This latest rollout will help meet the growing demands for dermatology services as skin cancer generates more urgent referrals than any cancer in the UK.

The adoption of DERM across the nine NHS trusts will allow them to tackle their backlogs and free-up outpatient delays, while also ensuring skin cancer patients are prioritised and given timely access to potentially life-saving treatment.

Manchester University NHS Foundation Trust, Liverpool University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, University Hospitals Dorset NHS Foundation Trust and Dorset County Hospital NHS Foundation Trust are the first trusts to be given funding from the NHS England Cancer Programme, which was awarded in November 2023, to roll out DERM with other trusts expected to follow suit in the coming weeks.

Tom Berry, Divisional Director – Medicine and Outpatients, Manchester University NHS Foundation Trust said: “The deployment provides a real opportunity for us to innovate the way we provide care for patients referred into our dermatology service with suspected skin cancer.

“Dermatology services are under pressure across the NHS in England, particularly with increased referral trends for suspected skin cancer.

“We expect DERM will help us to maximise the capacity of our specialist consultant dermatologist workforce, which will support the team to see and treat patients in an efficient and timely way across both cancer and non-cancer pathways.

“The implementation of this approach from February 2024 will also support the service to embed the new process ahead of the expected seasonal increase in demand for skin cancer pathways.”

Neil Daly, CEO of Skin Analytics, said: “DERM not only helps detect and assess potential cases of skin cancer but also eases pressure on routine patients seeking dermatology services.

“If successful, and we are confident it will be, we hope this roll out could pave the way for wider adoption across all NHS trusts in England, creating a standardised and efficient dermatology pathway.”

Skin Analytics has been a long-standing partner of the NHS and is the only UKCA Class IIa licenced AI medical device designed to assess skin lesions available in the UK market.

Evaluations show that the AI medical device has consistently performed in line with or above the sensitivity targets of 95 per cent for melanoma and squamous cell carcinoma.

DERM has identified over 40 per cent urgent suspected skin cancer referrals it has assessed in secondary care as suitable for discharge.

The rollout of DERM across an additional nine trusts by the summer builds on deployments over the last four years at University Hospitals Birmingham NHS Foundation Trust, West Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust, University Hospitals of Leicester NHS Trust, Chelsea and Westminster Hospital NHS Foundation Trust and Ashford and St Peters NHS FT.

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