LEEDS is on course to take a leading position in global healthcare markets after the city secured a partnership with a major US company, according to the head of supermarket chain Asda.
Andy Clarke, the president and chief executive of Leeds-based Asda and chair of Leeds and Partners, made the comments at an event which attracted dozens of figures from the city’s business community.
Politicians, business people and academics have high hopes for the partnership with health care company Alere, which was announced earlier this month.
Alere, which is based near Boston in the US, has agreed to work with health and social care providers in Leeds to see if it can apply its “health care platform” to create a single electronic health record.
If it’s successful, Alere could create a UK base in Leeds, creating hundreds of jobs over the next two years. It could also save taxpayers’ money by helping the health service to function more efficiently.
Speaking at the Leeds City Summit yesterday, Mr Clarke said the partnership was “at a very early stage” but added: “The fact that we’re at the centre of it (healthcare) is going to put us in a lead position.”
During the wide-ranging round table discussion, which was held at The Carriageworks in Leeds, Professor John Fisher, the deputy vice chancellor of Leeds University, said the partnership with Alere could be part of a process that would give people “greater ownership and responsibility” for their own health and well-being.
Hilary Benn, the Leeds Central Labour MP, who was also on the panel, said: “We have got strengths in this field (healthcare). Cities should play to their strengths.”
He said he supported the use of anonymous health data to promote a better understanding of healthy patterns, because it would benefit all of us.
Speaking afterwards, Tom Riordan, the chief executive of Leeds City Council, said that he had also received positive feedback from a Leeds and Partners delegation, which is attending the AdvaMed 2013 medical technologies conference in Washington in the US. The Leeds and Partners team has joined a UKTI delegation.
Mr Riordan said: “I’ve just had feedback from the private sector, saying that Leeds is ‘front of mind’ for investors in that city (Washington).”
Commenting on the opportunities in the health sector, Mr Riordan said: “We’ve got huge strengths in health. If you put all that together, and you get international investors coming in to tap into what we’re doing, then the opportunity is really big in terms of jobs, but also in terms of being the place in the world that can integrate health and social (care).”
He said this partnership would benefit the community and help to reduce health inequalities.
Regarding the agreement with Alere, he said: “It’s early days and we’ve got really good relationships built up with them. It (the partnership) is certainly one to watch. We hope to have more to talk about in the coming months.
“It’s linked into this idea that we can get the whole health system working together more effectively,
“Everybody’s personal data will be protected. But in terms of the aggregated and anonymous data, that will be a real asset that we can tap into, working with the private sector and public sector. There are benefits for taxpayers in terms of the job opportunities that will come through.
“We’ve got this massive challenge in the public sector of reducing the deficit. The only way we can do that is by putting our social care money alongside the NHS money and making it work better together, we’re doing that in Leeds as well as anybody.”
Other speakers on the panel included Gerald Jennings, portfolio director of Land Securities, and Tony Hallwood, marketing director of Leeds Bradford International Airport. The event was hosted by the Yorkshire Mafia, and sponsors included Leeds City College, Farnell, Virgin Media, Salesforce, Barclays and theagenci.com