Millions to get 'tele-health' help
Three million patients with chronic illnesses such as diabetes or heart conditions are to get hi-tech equipment to monitor their health at home, Prime Minister David Cameron has announced.
The "tele-health" drive will allow vital health checks to be carried out and sent electronically to GPs without the need for the patient to make an appointment or visit a clinic, and it will be rolled out across the country in the next five years following a successful pilot scheme.
The announcement came as the Prime Minister unveiled a range of measures designed to boost Britain's pharmaceutical industry, encourage medical breakthroughs and get life-saving drugs to patients faster.
Mr Cameron said: "This is going to make an extraordinary difference to people. Diabetics taking their blood sugar levels at home, and having them checked by a nurse. Heart disease patients having their blood pressure and pulse rate checked, without leaving their home. Dignity, convenience and independence for millions of people."
Amid mounting fears that Britain could slip back into recession, Mr Cameron made clear he believes the pharmaceutical industry has the potential to drive growth and to help rebalance the UK economy away from financial services. The life sciences sector already employs more than 160,000 people in 4,500 companies in the UK, and has an annual turnover of £50 billion.
Launching the Government's Strategy for UK Life Sciences, Mr Cameron also confirmed plans for a £180 million catalyst fund to help speed new medical treatments through the so-called "valley of death" between development in the laboratory and use on patients.
He also pledged an "early access scheme" to allow patients in the advanced stages of diseases such as brain and lung cancer, for whom no other treatment is available, to obtain treatment with experimental drugs and technologies.
Mr Cameron also highlighted a consultation on changes to the use of NHS patient data, which could see more information shared with private healthcare companies and data automatically included in clinical research unless individuals opt out.
He also pledged a £50 million new cell therapy technology and innovation centre in London to help turn scientific discoveries into commercial products to help patients with illnesses like Parkinson's, while a new app and web portal will help members of the public participate in clinical trials.
Shadow health secretary Andy Burnham warned Mr Cameron not to "throw away essential safeguards in his desperation to develop a credible industrial strategy", while Joyce Robbins, of Patient Concern, said many people would be "deeply disturbed" by the notion that their private medical records could be handed to firms seeking new markets.