Belfast, Northern Ireland, is to be the home of a new ‘European Centre for Connected Health’, intended to help test technologies that enable people with chronic conditions live independently at home.

NI Health Minister Michael McGimpsey and Economy Minister Nigel Dodds announced the establishment of the centre at last week’s Connected Health Conference, held in Belfast.

The new Centre will take pioneer the introduction of new technologies to offer a better quality of life to people with long-term conditions such as diabetes or respiratory diseases.

McGimpsey also announced that within three years at least 5,000 people suffering from chronic illnesses in Northern Ireland will have access to a remote monitoring service for their conditions.

By comparison, in England the government has announced plans for 7,000 telecare and telehealth devices to be installed in users’ homes, in the largest trial of telecare and telehealth yet undertaken in the country.

McGimpsey said: “Improving the quality of our health and social care services is essential as we strive to meet the challenges ahead. Our population is changing. We have a growing number of older people, many with chronic conditions such as respiratory and heart disease and diabetes who rely heavily on our health service. We need to be more innovative in the way we provide health and social care services to the population, he said.

“Through partnership working with colleagues throughout Europe there is real potential for Northern Ireland to become a model health and social care economy for others to follow. There are also strong economic arguments for pursuing this goal and I am very pleased that the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Investment is sharing this platform with me today.

“The European Centre for Connected Health, based here in Northern Ireland, will focus on developing the region as a connected health economy, introducing new technologies and working closely with the health and social care system to deliver this.

“By embracing the concept of Connected Health and applying the technology of today to improve our services, we will also sow the seeds for the different kinds of services our communities will require to meet their needs tomorrow.”

Plans were also outlined to roll-out Picture Archiving and Communications Systems (PACS) across the province to enable switching to digital x-rays.