A new code of conduct will ensure that only the best and safest data-driven technologies are used by the NHS, aiming to protect patient data, the government says.

The main principals include understanding users, their needs and the context, being fair, transparent and accountable about what data is being used and being transparent about the limitations of the data used and algorithms deployed.

The code also claims its aim is to make it easier for suppliers to develop technologies that tackle some of the biggest issues in healthcare, such as dementia, obesity and cancer, whilst also also helping health and care providers choose safe, effective and secure technology to improve the services they provide.

Health and social care secretary Matt Hancock commented: “Artificial intelligence has the potential to save lives, but also brings challenges that must be addressed. We need to create an ecosystem of innovation to allow this type of technology to flourish in the NHS and support our incredible workforce to save lives, by equipping clinicians with the tools to provide personalised treatments.

“AI must be used responsibly and our code of conduct sets a gold-standard set of rules to ensure patient data is always protected and the systems we use are some of the safest in the world.”

The code will also ensure that the NHS is fairly rewarded for allowing companies access to its data pool to build life-saving artificial intelligence systems, as AI technology is already being used across the NHS to improve the early diagnosis of heart disease and lung cancer, and reduce the number of unnecessary operations performed due to false positives.