New healthtech agreement to help solve Region’s hardest health challenges
16 August 2019
Jo-Anne Wass, Chief Operating Officer for Leeds Academic Health Partnership
Now, more than ever, we are surrounded by help and advice about how to stay healthy and well. Most of us carry around in our pockets a world of online resources and information via our smart phones, as well as gadgets and gizmos we can use to measure and monitor things like our diet and exercise levels. So there’s a lot we can do to help ourselves.
At the same time, we have the amazing expertise and dedication of hardworking people in our health, social care and voluntary services – there for us when we can’t so easily help ourselves.
But some aspects of life are less easy for individuals to control and need organisations to collaborate for improvement. Factors such as climate and air quality, transport, good quality housing, healthy town planning, training, jobs and a good income all have a huge effect on our wellbeing.
With this in mind, one of the Leeds Academic Health Partnership’s (LAHP’s) main aims for the Leeds and the Leeds City Region is to attract investment which strengthens and grows the economy. In line with our overarching aim to reduce health inequalities, such growth must be inclusive. In other words, it must benefit everyone – providing good training, skills and jobs for people in all our communities, leaving no one behind.
In 2016, the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) selected various regions’ businesses, universities, research and innovation organisations and Local Enterprise Partnerships (LEPs) to produce science and innovation audits (SIAs). These audits were intended to identify each region’s greatest potential for growth.
As a result, in September 2017, the Government published the Leeds City Region SIA, ‘Opportunities and Growth: Medical Technologies’. It analysed our region’s strengths in healthtech and the challenges we face in growing this sector of our economy.
The Leeds City Region geography very closely aligns with that of West Yorkshire and Harrogate Health and Care Partnership. So, what the SIA found and the ambitions it set out, are important for us all.
The SIA shows that health technologies are a major regional strength, offering huge potential for growth in our region and for the UK.
A surgeon operating using the da Vinci robot
Healthtech is an all-encompassing term that includes medical technologies, such as devices, implants and surgical robots, as well as digital health technology, such as the apps we use on our smartphones. The trend increasingly is to merge these technologies – for example, devices with a supporting app.
Growing and ageing populations, the rise in levels of obesity and chronic illness, an increasingly “digital-savvy” population, and an increasing demand for medical devices are all driving the growth of these technologies.
So, the SIA findings present an exciting opportunity to significantly boost our economy and transform our health and care services. In short, to help three million people across the region live healthier lives.
How well placed is our region to respond to this demand?
We are the largest economic region in the UK outside London and the South East and a vibrant hub for healthtech businesses. In our universities, we have one of the largest concentrations of healthtech research facilities in Europe. And the West Yorkshire and Harrogate Health and Care Partnership is the third largest of its kind in the country.
But despite these strengths, there are many challenges. The rising demand for healthtech means the types of education, training and skills needed in the health and care workforce are changing, as highlighted in the Government’s recent Topol Review.
Testing of new technologies, which of course is needed to protect patients from harm and to ensure that devices are properly regulated before mainstream use, is a complicated and lengthy process. And companies find it difficult to navigate the NHS for testing and trialling, and to ensure that their technologies, once proven, are adopted and spread.
The SIA recommends that, to solve some of these challenges, we needed a dedicated leadership group, bringing together key stakeholders from academia, industry and the health and care sectors to work closely together. So that’s exactly what the LAHP is establishing.
In June, we brought partners together from across the Leeds City Region to sign an agreement to commit to this. They include five universities, the Leeds City Region Enterprise Partnership, the Association of British Healthtech Industries and the West Yorkshire and Harrogate Health and Care Partnership.
Signatories to the new Leeds City Region healthtech MoU.
This autumn, they will meet as a leadership group for the first time. They will work together to understand what health and care support our citizens and patients most need and which health and care challenges might be solved using healthtech. This will attract and encourage more companies to do business in our region, to base themselves here and create jobs for local communities, and importantly, to invest in developing the healthtech solutions our citizens most need.
We’re delighted to be supporting this new, bold commitment – a ground-breaking collaboration between innovators and the health and care sector. As well as boosting the region’s economy and providing new jobs and skills, we hope it will speed up our work to transform services and, most importantly, help people stay healthier for longer.
Jo-Anne Wass is Chief Operating Officer for Leeds Academic Health Partnership.
This blog first appeared as a leadership blog for West Yorkshire and Harrogate Health and Care Partnership and is republished here with kind permission.
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