City seeks to lead way in digital healthcare revolution

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A LINE of global investors are queuing up to help put Leeds at the vanguard of Jeremy Hunt’s new paperless NHS as the city strives to become one of three centres of excellence for hi-tech industries across Yorkshire.

Leeds representatives wrote to the Health Secretary earlier this month to offer a commitment that the city can become the first place in the UK to have a revolutionary digital health record system in place for every one of its NHS and social care patients before the end of next year.

The pioneering scheme is part of the city’s wider push to become a global centre for healthcare technology, with marketing chiefs locked in talks with a number of leading American firms that could bring millions of pounds of new investment to the city over the next 12 months.

The Leeds healthcare “hub” is one of three similar projects now developing across Yorkshire as the region’s largest cities look to reinvent themselves for the 21st century.

Sheffield is working to become the UK’s centre of excellence for advanced manufacturing, with the city building on its proud industrial heritage to create a new economy based on hi-tech construction work through iconic firms such as Rolls-Royce and Forgemasters.

Hull and the wider Humber area is also striving to become the nation’s “energy estuary”, using its existing engineering prowess and strong oil and chemicals sector as a base from which to exploit
its geographical advantage for new industries such as offshore wind, carbon capture and biomass.

The Yorkshire Post is campaigning for the Government to give clear backing to all three centres of excellence as part of its Give us a Fair Deal campaign.

In a special report today, the scale of the opportunities available are shown to be highly significant, with studies suggesting thousands of new jobs can be created in each city as new hi-tech industries expand over the coming years.

Lurene Joseph, chief executive of marketing agency Leeds and Partners, has made several trips to the United States over recent month to meet with global firms interested in helping Leeds become a centre of excellence for healthcare innovation.

“The investors are coming,” she told the Yorkshire Post.

“I don’t want to quote them at this stage. But we’re bringing in people at the cutting edge – one 
of them is world renowned, 
quoted in Forbes magazine as bringing a new approach to healthcare.”

Leeds has a long history of being at the forefront of the UK’s healthcare sector, being home to the Department for Health’s headquarters for the north of England as well as one of Europe’s largest teaching hospitals.

It already has several local firms at the forefront of the digital revolution which is now poised to sweep through the NHS following Mr Hunt’s pledge last month that the entire health service should be paper-free by 2018.

The Health Secretary is determined to end the archaic nature of hospital referrals and record-keeping by introducing digital patient records which can be accessed by GPs, nurses, consultants and social workers at the touch of a button.

Speaking at an event at the Cambridge Health Network in January, Mr Hunt said he wants “one region in England” to be at the vanguard of the new digitised NHS, with a fully integrated record system in place across all health and social care services before the next general election in May 2015.

Ms Joseph has written to the Health Secretary making clear that Leeds is “already well advanced in working toward this goal” and can have the system in place by the end of 2014 – “ahead of your target deadline”.

Mr Hunt has yet to respond.

But speaking to the Yorkshire Post, Health Minister Earl Howe said it was right that cities such as Leeds take a local approach to modernising the NHS’s IT systems, following the crashing failure of top-down efforts under Labour. “Only with world class information systems will the NHS deliver the world class care that we want,” he said.