Poots provides commitment of support for R&D in Northern Ireland

Health Minister Edwin Poots today welcomed commitment of close to GBP5million of assistance being made available to attract innovation and technology aimed at improving patient healthcare in Northern Ireland.

During a high-profile international healthcare conference in the United States, the Minister told delegates that the assistance will be allocated to support research by industry into connected health. It will be available through Invest Northern Ireland and open to companies who choose Northern Ireland to carry out their research and development activity.

Mr Poots is on a four-day visit to Boston where he is meeting key European and US political and business leaders. Speaking at the EU-US eHealth Marketplace, he said: “Our priority is to deliver improved healthcare. This GBP4.7million ($7.5m) funding will accelerate research and development in connected health and, therefore, is a huge step forward in achieving that priority.

"In Northern Ireland, we have built a strong partnership between the health and economic agenda. In December 2011, the Enterprise Minister Arlene Foster and I signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between our two Departments, to work together to find ways to improve the health and well-being of patients and at the same time, develop our economy. Working under the MoU, we have recently set up a connected health eco-system bringing together our health professionals with academics and business people in a forum where they can work together to innovate, improve and ultimately to provide better healthcare. This work is vital to the radical change in health service delivery under the Transforming Your Care agenda.

“In tandem with this, we will also be establishing a ‘task and finish’ group to identify opportunities to promote economic growth and job creation in Northern Ireland in the health and social care sector, to ensure the best possible support from DHSSPS and Invest NI for all worthwhile opportunities to make use of the funding available."

The Minister said; “This financial support aims to encourage companies from the US and EU to base their research into connected health in Northern Ireland. There is no doubt that we have much to offer; we are large enough to be a test-bed for innovative initiatives and yet, we are small enough to be nimble and flexible with our integrated health and social care sector."

While addressing delegates from both sides of the Atlantic at the Massachusetts State House, he said: “We in Northern Ireland recognise that although we have made great strides, we cannot realise the full potential of connected health on our own. Through the eco-system and our developing links with other eco-systems elsewhere, we are making vital contacts in the US and across Europe. We are looking to take full advantage of the opportunities presented to us.”

The Minister said that the benefits of new technology to patient care are very clear and that its increased use was central to Transforming Your Care. He said that telehealth and telemonitoring help support people in their own homes and help potential problems or a deterioration to be identified more quickly to allow earlier interventions to be made. Mr Poots also highlighted the fact that not only does connected health technology help improve the delivery of care it also mitigates the demands on our resources.

The Minister added: “What we do today will not only improve patient care but will also reduce our costs in the long run.”

During his visit to the United States, the Minister is also due to co-host a lunch for delegates at the Massachusetts State House with Senate President Therese Murray and forge links with business and political leaders from across the United States and Europe.