£1m 5G project could 'transform' NHS in the North East, health bosses hope

North East tech firms are invited to come up with 5G ideas to transform the NHS
-Credit: (Image: PA)

A £1m project is to investigate how 5G technology could revolutionise aspects of hospital care in the North East and North Cumbria.

Leading figures from the North East health and politics world welcomed the £1m project which will see businesses explore ideas to use the technology to improve care in the NHS - especially when it comes to "flow" of patients and how smoothly the process of discharging them from hospital works.

There is to be "5G innovation acceleration programme" with businesses invited to pitch ideas for using 5G to speed up NHS treatment, boost planning and save cash in the long-term.

The project is to be a partnership between a number of NHS bodies, the Centre for Process Innovation (CPI), and firms Boldyn Networks and Waymark. This partnership has received £1m in North East Combined Authority cash.

Coun Nick Kemp, leader of Newcastle City Council and economics chief for the combined authority said backing the region's "thriving digital sector" has vital and the new project would allow firms to test technology in healthcare settings that could "transform" NHS services.

He added: "“The North East is home to a growing and thriving digital sector, with cutting-edge businesses creating good, high-skilled jobs and tackling some of the crucial challenges facing our region and country. Our ambition is to become a region of excellence for 5G technology, and the NECA continues to back innovative businesses to adopt technology, scale-up and grow.

"This is crucial to the North East’s industrial strategy, where we want to build a stronger, more inclusive economy which delivers better public services and ensures everyone benefits from growth. This project provides a rare opportunity for businesses to test technology in health care and has the potential to transform services for patients. I strongly encourage businesses in digital and health to apply.”

Ideas which show promise in the initial stages will be selected for a full-scale "testbed environment" at the CPI, while two successful projects will be used in real-world healthcare settings - and could then be adopted across the country.

Dr Stephen Lynn, associate director for Health Innovation North East and North Cumbria, said: "Connectivity plays such a crucial role in health and care, allowing the transfer of data, messages and other communications to the right people and places at the right time.

"5G is a key piece of technology yet to be truly harnessed across health and care services in the North East, so working with innovators to address system challenges and provide benefit to the region is a brilliant opportunity."

Prof Graham Evans is the North East and North Cumbria Integrated Care Board's chief digital officer. He said: ""As a region, we have an ethos and history of continuous improvement and embracing innovative solutions for the benefit of the people and populations we serve.

"This 5G innovation is an example of system-wide collaboration across healthcare, academia and industry partners, where real-world challenges are considered as opportunities that can be solved by combining the right people with the skills, expertise and knowledge to make a positive difference – together"

Steven Bagshaw of CPI said 5G had "the potential to help address some of the biggest challenges faced by healthcare providers today" and added this work could cut time lost to admin in the NHS and free up doctors and nurses. He added: "It represents a huge step forward for the way we deliver health services.

"For many of us in the UK, it might feel like 5G is already a part of daily life, but the application of digital technologies in healthcare is much more complex. We must strive to take advantage of these technologies to provide the best possible care for patients and make step-change improvements for staff in the NHS and wider social care."