Labour’s ‘Fit For The Future Fund’ to arm NHS with new scanners and AI

The next Labour government will arm the NHS with state-of-the-art equipment and new technology to cut waiting times.

The party is announcing an extra £171 million per year for a ‘Fit For The Future Fund’, which will be used to purchase the latest technology and replace outdated equipment. The fund is part of party’s plan to cut waiting lists, more of which will be outlined at Labour’s conference in Liverpool.

Freedom of information responses from NHS trusts reveal that half (48%) still have an MRI or CT scanner in operation past the recommended life span of 10 years. One in five trusts are using the same scanners they had when the last Labour government left office in 2010. 

According to research by the King’s Fund, the NHS has fewer scanners per person than all other comparable countries, including Japan, New Zealand, the USA, and Greece. 

There are currently 1.6 million people waiting for diagnostic scans and tests in England, three times as many as when the last Labour government left office in 2010. 158,000 patients have been waiting more than 13 weeks for a diagnostic test, including 100,000 patients waiting for tests and scans used to detect cancer. The NHS target is for 99 per cent of patients to wait less than six weeks for a diagnostic test, but this has not been met since February 2017. 

Labour’s ‘Fit For The Future Fund’ will provide enough funding to double the number of CT and MRI scanners in the NHS over a parliament, so patients get diagnosed earlier. The plan will require NHS trusts to purchase state of the art scanners with inbuilt AI diagnostic tools which work faster, make diagnoses more accurate, and provide a better experience for patients. The fund will be paid for by abolishing the non-dom tax status, which allows people who live and work in Britain to pay their taxes overseas.

Trusts that are not in need of new scanners can use the fund to purchase other equipment or upgrade IT systems to improve productivity. This comes after Health Ministers revealed in June that 11,600 computers in the health service still run on outdated Windows XP and Windows 7 systems, which Microsoft says are “highly likely” to be vulnerable to cyber-attack if they have not been updated since 2019.

Alongside investment, Labour’s plans for reform will get state-of-the-art medical technology adopted and spread across the NHS more quickly. The party will streamline procurement and cut unnecessary red tape to give innovators a clear route to getting their products rolled out across the NHS, giving patients faster access to cutting edge treatments and diagnostics.

Wes Streeting MP, Labour’s Shadow Health Secretary, said:

“There is technology available today that can help cut staff workload, diagnose more accurately, and get patients treated faster. It should be available on the NHS.

“Instead, the NHS is using creaking, outdated equipment and has fewer scanners per person than Greece. It’s time for an upgrade.

“Labour’s Fit For The Future Fund will take the NHS out of the analogue and into the digital age. We will arm the NHS with the cutting-edge kit it needs to cut waiting lists and get patients treated on time again. This is the first step in changing the focus of the NHS to catch illness much earlier and treat it faster, which is better for patients and less expensive for taxpayers.”