Hull pioneers switch to telehealth29th September 2008
The city of Hull has a long and rich healthcare heritage stretching back more than 150 years. In 1840, Isaac Reckitt decided to rent a starch mill, in 1856 Thomas James Smith went into business as a dispensing chemist and in the early 20th Century Hull trawler made their first investment in the commercial production of cod liver oil.
From such small acorns, the mighty multi-nationals of Reckitt Benckiser, Smith & Nephew and Seven Seas have grown. Despite many changes over the years, these companies continue to develop and prosper as major employers, exporters and centres of Research & Development.
In recent months Reckitt Benckiser has expanded its product development facilities in the city, while Hull has become Smith & Nephew’s global centre for Advanced Woundcare Management.
The presence of these companies is complemented by world-class clinical research work undertaken at the University of Hull and the Hull York Medical School (HYMS), ranked fifth in the The Times Good University Guide 2008 for the study of medicine.
Often working in partnership with Hull & East Yorkshire Hospitals NHS Trust, these medical schools have enhanced the city’s reputation as a research centre for cardiovascular and respiratory medicine, gastrointestinal and cancer surgery and oncology.
Most recently, Hull has been the scene of pioneering developments in cardiac medicine as well as the deployment of the UK’s most unique and innovative package of telehealth and independent living services.
Healthcare and medical technology is becoming increasingly important to the city and region as Hull looks for areas of economic growth which build on existing strengths. In addition to the strong industrial sector the city and region have vibrant research groups in the local academic and hospital / health sector. The city’s stable demographic and a population whose health needs are representative of the western world make it an ideal location for trialling new clinical techniques, services and medical technologies.
In order to capitalise on these strengths and drive forward a coordinated strategy for the city a unique group was brought together by Hull’s Economic Development Company Hull Forward. Comprising a mix of private and public sector organisations, both large and small, the group is devising a strategy to further develop this sector over the coming 20 years so it not only delivers transformed healthcare provision for the people of Hull but also becomes a driving force for the local economy.
A good example is the Institute for Wound Care, which was set up through a unique collaboration between Hull Teaching Primary Care Trust, East Riding of Yorkshire Primary Care Trust, Hull & East Yorkshire Hospitals NHS Trust and the University of Hull.
Chronic wounds are a huge and increasing economic burden on society in Britain and a significant cause of morbidity for patients ranging from the elderly to diabetics and long term drug users. In addition, acute wounds can significantly increase patient discomfort and lengthen stays in hospital. The Institute for Wound Care is uniquely positioned to be able to study and treat patients with Gold Standard techniques and new technology in a research environment whether the patient is in the hospital or the community.
The Institute offers an ideal test bed for wound care businesses and has existing contracts with a number of leading firms which are benefiting from rapid access to results from clinical trials.
The same factors that make Hull an ideal environment for woundcare research are behind the city’s pioneering development of telehealth services. A group of public and private sector partners is driving forward an ambitious and transformative programme of health and care delivery using digital technologies.
The UK’s first mainstream, large-scale deployment of telehealth equipment to monitor people with congestive heart failure (CHF) in their own homes was launched at the end of 2007.The scheme is designed to significantly reduce avoidable admissions and shorten hospital stays, by providing a more timely and preventative model of care supporting more people living independently at home, using Philips Motiva and Tunstall Genesis units to let people monitor their own weight and blood pressure daily.
The unit also prompts the patient to answer a set of clinical questions, to help accurately gauge the status of their condition. These key indicators are then automatically relayed to staff from the PCT over the user’s telephone line. Further deployments of equipment are planned throughout the city with some 300 units likely to be in use by the end of 2008.
Alongside the telehealth initiative, Hull City Council along with Hull PCT and other local partners have pioneered the award-winning STREAM Independent Living, a telecare service which means older people living in the city are the first in the country to access personalised and locally relevant public services through their television. The service is part of a radical redesign of Hull City Council’s Community Care services, which is embracing telehealth and telecare to help vulnerable older people live longer, healthier and happier lives in their own homes.
The city’s investment in the health of its communities is further enhanced by its LIFT (Local Improvement Finance Trust) Company, Hull Citycare, one of the leading organisations of its kind in the country and responsible for providing new primary care facilities for the community. Six new facilities have been delivered in the last four years and the seventh is now under construction. At the same time, Hull & East Yorkshire Hospitals NHS Trust recently opened its new state-of-the-art £67m oncology and haematology centre and £11m Medical Research Teaching and Day Surgery facility and a new £45m cardiac and surgical unit is nearing completion at Castle Hill hospital.
Further evidence if it were required that Hull is a city with a genuine focus on the future of healthcare as befits its history of excellence in this field.
Chair, Hull & Humber Healthcare Technologies Group
VP Research & Technology, Smith & Nephew Wound Mgt
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