Healthcare has taken what can be considered a huge leap as the sector turns to space technology for innovative solutions to improve quality of care. A new joint initiative between NHS England and the UK Space Agency aims to find hi-tech solutions to the major health and care challenges facing the NHS in its 70th anniversary year.
These challenges are:
• Managing long-term conditions including joining up health and care services
• Earlier diagnosis of cancer
• Transforming GP services and other primary care
• Meeting mental health needs
The UK Space Agency has announced a funding of up to £4 million for this joint undertaking. Innovators will bid for money to turn technology originally designed for space, from exploration to satellite communications, into medical applications that improve NHS treatment and care.
The space agency explains that up to four applications will receive funding to develop their ideas along with support and advice from the body, NHS England and the European Space Agency.
“Through this competition we are seeking the latest greatest, ideas and technical solutions to help address the modern challenges facing our health and care services,” said Professor Tony Young, NHS England’s national clinical director for innovation.
Previous examples of space tech being adapted for NHS use include a pill camera that can be swallowed by patients, breast screening vans that beam images back to assessment centres, wearable monitors to help prevent falls among the elderly, dementia tracking slippers, and apps that help prevent skin cancer.
The UK’s space industry builds 40 percent of the world’s small satellites and 25 percent of the world’s telecommunications satellites. It supports 40,000 jobs and generates £14 billion in revenue across the country.
For her part, Emily Gravestock, UK Space Agency head of applications, said: “Britain’s world-leading space sector continues to grow and support vital public services like the NHS with innovative applications. We encourage all businesses and public bodies to consider the role that satellite data can play in tackling some of the biggest challenges we face, as part of the government’s Industrial Strategy.”
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