Out of 20 cities evaluated in the UK Smart Cities Index, Leeds placed fifth in terms of smart health initiatives. Thanks to its long-term growth strategy “Getting Leeds Working,” Yorkshire’s largest city has created an Innovation Health Hub that acts as an open platform for healthcare data, which is being used in initiatives such as an innovation lab, health-related mobile applications, a digital teleconferencing centre, and a clinical training and simulation centre. Let’s dive deeper into some of the ways Leeds is serving as a leader in health innovation and the detrimental effects Brexit may have on this smart healthcare system.
Open data-driven solutions
A key component of Leeds’s smart healthcare system is open data. The Data Mill North (which originally began as the Leeds Data Mill) was one of the first in the UK to bring together information from different organisations that could be analysed and accessed on a single platform. Another initiative that has had a serious impact on the healthcare system is the Leeds Care Record, a single application that grants general practitioners direct access to up-to-date information on patients’ hospital reports. Since debuting three years ago, the record has already saved more than £1 million a year with more than five major care settings accessing the platform across the region. This is one of the ways Leeds is driving forward its health and social care programmes in an effort to make the city a great one to grow old in, working with partners and third sector agencies to “empower older residents by increasing their access to new technologies and online services,” according to a Digital Health article.
“The digital revolution is gaining momentum all over the UK; smarter cities can improve people’s everyday lives from accessing healthcare to simplifying waste management and streamlining public services,” explained Matt Hancock, Minister of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport. While Leeds joins the ranks of top smart cities across the UK like London and Bristol in terms of its successful approach to smart healthcare, it may also be one of the hardest hit by Brexit, which could affect its role and support as a partner in projects like ACTIVAGE (part of the European Union’s Horizon 2020 programme), which offers independent living support and personal health monitoring. Loss of European funds are just one of the outcomes cities like Leeds may face as a result of Brexit. Both the NHS and social care sector have become reliant on health care professionals from other EU countries, with 62,000 of the NHS’s 1.2 million-person workforce and 95,000 of the 1.3 million workers in England’s social care sector coming from outside the UK. If restrictions on the freedom of movement policy are put in place, this could severely impact the health sector and stall the type of smart progress in cities like Leeds.
As one of the UK’s largest financial services centres, Leeds is already looking ahead to put measures in place to “maintain progress on major development and infrastructure schemes,” according to Leeds City Council Leader Judith Blake, and respond to any challenges Brexit may impose on the city’s thriving healthcare sector, protecting the work and advancements it has already made in the field.