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Northern Ireland’s healthcare challenges are opening up real opportunities for the business world – Poots

Northern Irelandís healthcare sector presents a significant opportunity to promote inward investment, create job opportunities and bolster economic growth through innovation and collaboration with international organistations.
Friday, 25 October 2013

That was the key message from Health Minister Edwin Poots as he returned from a successful Connected Health Week in Boston, USA.

The Minister used the trip to share Northern Ireland’s work with other countries and regions, to learn from their knowledge and experiences, and to optimise exciting opportunities for job creation and economic growth within health and social care.

The Minister also participated in the 3rd EU-US eHealth Marketplace and Conference during the week where he was a key note speaker along with the First and deputy First Ministers.

He said; “As Health Minister, my first and foremost priority is to ensure that the healthcare service delivered to the people of Northern Ireland is of the highest standard. However, in the current very difficult financial climate, we can also see the very real opportunities which healthcare innovation presents, not only for transforming the delivery of care and services to patients, but also for the growth of our economy. It is my intention to do everything possible to ensure that these opportunities are maximised.

“The existence of a thriving healthcare sector is not just important to the economy in itself but also contributes to economic prosperity indirectly by improving health. Improvements in the health and wellbeing of the population contribute to economic growth by augmenting labour supply and productivity. This applies right from childhood where good health leads to higher educational achievement.”

Mr Poots had earlier announced the next steps to take forward the recommendations of the Task and Finish Group which was established in February 2013 under the terms of the Executive’s Economy and Jobs Initiative.

The Group was asked to assess the potential economic opportunities within Northern Ireland’s health and social care sector, and it reported its findings in May.

The Minister continued saying; “We believe there is much to be gained through strong collaboration between Health and the Economy and it was with that in mind that we established a Task and Finish Group earlier this year. The consensus of the Group was that the potential of Northern Ireland’s Health and Social Care sector as an economic contributor needs to be harnessed to enable it to become a major driver for innovation and economic growth. The recommendations which were set out in the Task and Finish Group’s report provide an excellent platform for moving the Health and Economy agenda in Northern Ireland to the next level.

“We now intend to appoint an Implementation Advisory Group to help take these recommendations forward and the Terms of Reference for this Group have now been agreed by myself and my colleague, the Economy Minister, Arlene Foster. This will allow us to build on the initial work of the Task and Finish Group and maintain the momentum on what we believe is an important agenda.”

The importance of international co-operation and collaboration in advancing Connected Health is foremost on the department’s agenda.

The department has Memorandum of Understanding’s in place with the Health Department of the Basque Regional Government (Spain) and the City of Oulu (Finland). Work is currently in progress to finalise an MOU with the Health Department in Catalonia and there are plans to develop additional MOUs over the coming weeks and months with Galicia, the Republic of Ireland and New York.

The agreements with other regions recognise that health and social care systems elsewhere are facing common challenges of caring for an increasingly elderly population with a higher prevalence of chronic diseases. The MOUs are intended to promote closer co-operation and collaboration on the development of new technologies and innovative approaches to improve patient care and meet the challenges facing the delivery of health and social care.

Notes to editors:

1. Media enquiries about this press release to DHSSPS Press Office on 9052 0575, or out of hours contact to Duty Press Officer via pager number 07699 715 440 and your call will be returned.