The First Minister the Rt Hon Peter D Robinson MLA and deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness MLA encouraged innovation and collaborative working to improve healthcare and economic prosperity at a conference in Boston, today.
The Ministers addressed delegates at the third EU-US Connected Health Conference, as part of the Connected Health Week, in Boston. The conference brings together businesses, academics and the healthcare sector to encourage the development of effective collaborations to deliver improvements in patient care and economic success.
The Hon. Therese Murray, President of the Massachusetts State Senate invited the Ministers to address the conference when she visited Northern Ireland earlier this year.
Speaking to 400 delegates attending the conference the First Minister Peter Robinson said: “The Northern Ireland Executive’s Programme for Government has placed the creation of new jobs and the modernisation of the delivery of health and social care services as two of its top five priorities.
“In Northern Ireland we have a strong and vibrant technology and health sciences sector. Health and life sciences account for just over 1% of private sector employment and contribute to 10% of Northern Ireland exports. It is a sector that is making a significant impact, having grown by 70% over the past three years.
“Dominated by entrepreneurs such as Almac, Randox and Norbook, Northern Ireland companies are doing business with leading global pharmaceutical giants and have a well earned reputation as a leading region in Europe and beyond for innovation in healthcare.
“I welcome the valuable opportunity that the EU-US Connected Health Conference gives our existing healthcare investors to play a leading role in driving innovation and collaboration within our healthcare system.”
Addressing the conference the deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness said: “The health sector, globally, continues to face considerable challenges within an uncertain financial environment. With finite resources and infinite demands tough decisions have to be taken to meet the increased need for services, emerging from an ageing population.
“The 400 delegates, from over 20 different countries, at today’s EU-US Connected Health Conference in Boston, are united in a common goal to improve the health of our population and boost our economies. Businesses, including nine companies from the north of Ireland, healthcare professionals and academics at the conference have the opportunity to exchange ideas, work collaboratively and improve healthcare, while developing many innovations for the commercial market.
“We are already seeing the benefit of collaborative working on the ground in the £11.5million clinical research facility, opened in Derry last week. This investment in Stratified Medicine demonstrates how health innovations will benefit patients and businesses.
“In recent years our health and social care sector has been able to develop excellent relations with the Connected Health infrastructure across Europe and North America. We are eager to reach out to other regions to further strengthen our business and research networks, to share our experiences and to further develop our knowledge base.”
Health Minister Edwin Poots, who also addressed the conference added: “I believe that in Northern Ireland we now have the necessary elements in place to enable innovation to become fully embedded into healthcare service delivery. I believe that we can now begin to realise our Connected Health and Prosperity vision, and in so doing significantly enhance the quality of health and social care for all the people of Northern Ireland while at the same time boosting the local economy.
“Whilst the priority for the Health and Social Care (HSC) sector must be improving the health and well-being of the population and improving the quality of care, it is important to stress that the sector plays a very significant part in the local economy. The opportunities for economic expansion offered by the Health and Social Care sector are significant. It spends almost £4.5billion annually and provides for 9% of the workforce.
“We believe we can build a successful and sustainable economy by identifying and exploiting opportunities where technology and innovation support the improvement of health care.”