NHS to use tech designed for space exploration to help patients

A new £4 million initiative will see four design concepts created that aim to help patients with long-term conditions including cancer and mental health issues, as well as improve GP services.

Courtesy of Sturti

Government organisation the UK Space Agency is putting £4 million towards using space exploration and satellite technology to create products and services for NHS patients.

The joint initiative with NHS England will see potential designers, technologists, inventors and scientists bid for a portion of the money to advance their idea.

Four different ideas

The £4 million will be split between a maximum of four different concepts, which will go towards developing the products, and offering support and advice to the inventors.

These new inventions will need to tackle four key challenges: managing long-term conditions, including joining up health and care services; diagnosing cancer earlier; transforming GP services and primary care; and helping those with mental health issues.

A pill camera and slippers that track whereabouts

Space tech has previously been used to create NHS products and services. Previous concepts include a pill camera that can be swallowed by patients to diagnose gut problems; tracking slippers worn by people with dementia, which allow carers to find them and reduce the risk of harm; breast cancer screening vans, which beam scans of patients directly to radiologists, to diagnose cancer more quickly; and apps that help to prevent skin cancer by using satellite tech to assess sun exposure.

The push to use new tech to improve the NHS is part of the Government’s industrial strategy, which over the last few years has focused heavily on research and development (R&D) in the science and tech industries, advancement of new tech such as augmented and virtual reality (AR and VR) and improvement of STEM subject (science, tech, engineering and maths) education.

Using tech to “tackle big challenges”

Emily Gravestock, head of applications at UK Space Agency, says: “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.”

This year marks the 70th anniversary of the NHS. Professor Tony Young, national clinical director for innovation at NHS England, says: “Through this competition we are seeking the latest ideas and technical solutions to help address the modern challenges facing our health and care services.”

To express interest in the space tech NHS initiative, email emily.gravestock@ukspaceagency.gov.uk.

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