The City of Wolverhampton Council has received £340,000 in grant funding to extend a pioneering project which uses artificial intelligence (AI) to help health and social care providers better predict future demand for services.

The council has been involved in NHS Digital's Social Care Digital Pathfinder programme for the last 2 years, during which time it has worked with technology company PredictX to build and test a prototype software tool using AI and machine learning. 

The tool pulls together anonymised records of health and social care service users in Wolverhampton to better understand how the support they received impacted on their outcomes and their future care needs.

It has been able to predict people's journey's through the health and social care system with a high level of accuracy which, in turn, will enable providers to plan better and more effective services for local residents.

Following a successful 'test and learn' phase, the council has been selected to receive further funding from NHS Digital to implement the project on a larger scale – and demonstrate how AI could be used to predict demand for services more widely across England.

Initially, the council will work with the West Midlands' Association of Directors of Adult Social Services, West Midlands Academic Health Science Network and the NHS Midlands and Lancashire Commissioning Support Unit to combine health and social care data from across the West Midlands. It will also encourage other health and social care systems in the region to join the project.

Councillor Linda Leach, the City of Wolverhampton Council's Cabinet Member for Adult Services, said: "We are at the forefront of combining health and social care data and using it to predict demand for services. This is particularly important at a time when we are experiencing rising demand.

"This project has successfully explored how we and our partners can use AI to the improve care and support we provide for people who need health and social care services.

“As a result, we will be able to provide targeted intervention work which will enable people to live more independently for longer, help reduce hospital admissions, further reduce delayed transfers of care to help people get home after a hospital stay more quickly and, ultimately, reduce demand for long term adult social care services."

She added: "The additional funding announced this week will allow us to continue our work and demonstrate how we can support a local, regional and national approach to health and social care integration."

A report about the project is due to be presented to members of the City of Wolverhampton Council’s Cabinet on Wednesday 19 February. 

The council is one of 16 organisations to receive a share of £4.5 million from the Social Care Digital Pathfinders programme, which supports products and services that have already been piloted in small local areas with the view to implementing them on a larger scale.

Health Minister Nicola Blackwood said: “Bridging the technology gap between the NHS and social care is a central part of achieving a health and care service that is fit for the future. 

"This £4.5 million investment will support local areas to improve information sharing across services, ensuring people avoid hospital unless absolutely necessary and helping everyone live independently for longer.”