Prime Minister Rishi Sunak visited Moorfields Eye Hospital on Thursday, 26 October 2023 to learn about the research being carried out into artificial intelligence (AI) by Moorfields and UCL Institute of Ophthalmology researchers.
Dr Martin Kuper, chief executive and Laura Wade-Gery, chair, welcomed the Prime Minister to the hospital, and spoke to him about the importance of safely and securely handling NHS patient data for research, and how Moorfields continues to invest into INSIGHT, the largest database of eye images in the world, which is led by Moorfields working in partnership with University Hospitals Birmingham NHS Foundation Trust.
“We were pleased to welcome Prime Minister Rishi Sunak to Moorfields, to understand our work to date and future ambitions,” said Martin Kuper, chief executive. “We are proud to showcase the hard work of our staff, and outline our ambition to use technology to support as many patients as possible and provide excellent specialist care at increasing scale.
As part of the tour, the Prime Minister also visited our medical retina hub, where we have increased capacity by making our processes more streamlined. He met Dr Siegfried Wagner, vitreoretinal fellow at Moorfields and senior research fellow at UCL, and Dr Xiao Liu, joint lead of the AI and Digital Health Research and Policy Group at University Hospitals Birmingham/University of Birmingham. Using an optical coherence tomography (OCT) machine, they demonstrated how within seconds, a cross-section of the retina (the back of the eye) in incredible detail can be taken, and then analysed by an AI algorithm to identify markers of certain diseases.
As well as diagnosing eye disease, the use of data from eye scans has previously revealed signs of cardiovascular and neurodegenerative conditions, including multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s, stroke and heart failure. Using millions of eye scans from the NHS, we have developed AI algorithms that have been trained to detect signs of eye and systemic disease using OCT scans. Several of these have already been published in peer-reviewed journals but are not yet in clinical use.
All patient data is fully anonymised, and we have pioneered patient and public involvement to ensure we have support and engagement for the algorithms we develop. To ensure AI is safe, we work closely with our research partners to evaluate risk of harm and bias in our algorithm. We have leveraged our joint expertise to internationally recognised standards, many of which have been adopted by top medical journals and regulators around the globe.
Finally, Mr Sunak visited the retinal therapy unit, where he met Sheila Adam, director of nursing and allied professionals, and Adam Mapani, nurse consultant, who talked to him about his work training nurses and allied health professionals to carry out intravitreal (inside the eye) injections, which led to entirely nurse-led intravitreal injection clinics across the UK, ensuring patients receive the vital injections they need on time to prevent sight loss.
A video of the Prime Minister meeting staff at Moorfields is available to watch using the link below:
What is INSIGHT?
The INSIGHT Health Data Research Hub Programme is the world’s largest database of eye images with linked clinical data. INSIGHT developed a safe and secure approach to the use of NHS patient data to advance research in the interest of benefiting patients and the wider society. In 2024 the Hub will also launch a trusted research environment to further enable secure access to data for health research.
For more information on research into AI at Moorfields, visit:
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