Health secretary attends Japan summit with health tech at top of the agenda

Health and Social Care Secretary, Steve Barclay, has visited Japan for the G7 health ministers’ meeting, where he led discussions with international counterparts on how technology can be used to improve patient care, reduce pressure on health and social care staff and cut waiting times for patients.

During his first international summit, the Secretary of State visited Silver Wing care home in Tokyo. It uses technology such as bed sensors, robotic mobility and walking aids and interactive entertainment to reduce pressure on staff while providing better care for residents. He saw some of the tech in action, including the mobility aids staff use to lift and move residents to and from their beds, which staff say has reduced pain in their lower backs while respecting residents’ privacy.

The Secretary of State also held one-to-one meetings with health ministers from G7 countries to discuss shared opportunities on using tech and innovation, workforce recruitment as well as cutting waiting times. Talks between the Secretary of State and his counterparts also focused on pandemic preparedness, tackling antimicrobial resistance (AMR) – which costs around 1.27 millon lives a year globally – and how member states are working to develop vaccines within 100 days of a pandemic threat being identified.

Speaking from Japan, the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, Steve Barclay, said: "Japan is pioneering the use of the latest technology and innovation in health and social care, so my visit to Nagasaki has been a great opportunity to see at first hand how this innovation helps both staff and people in care. New technology, including artificial intelligence, has a big role to play in the NHS’s future, helping to deliver one of the government’s 5 priorities to cut waiting lists so patients get the care they need quicker.

"We’re already seeing the benefits – the NHS App is being used to order more than 500,000 repeat prescriptions every week, while our £123 million investment in AI technologies is helping staff tackle issues like stroke diagnosis, cancer screening and cardiovascular monitoring."

The summit was also a vital opportunity to get round the table with health ministers from other G7 countries and commit to action to ensure we’re ready to respond to a possible future pandemic, both at home in the UK and globally with our international partners.

The Secretary of State delivered a speech at the summit in which he said new innovations will help tackle global health issues – including ageing populations and AMR. He cited as an example the UK’s world-first antibiotic subscription model – which incentivises drug companies to produce new antibiotics – which other G7 countries are looking to as something they could implement domestically.

In March, the Government announced nearly £16 million investment into pioneering artificial intelligence research through the AI in Health and Care Awards. This brings the total investment to £123 million in 86 AI technologies, which stand to benefit over 300,000 patients and support the treatment of conditions including cancer, heart disease, diabetes, mental health and neurological disorders.

The two-day G7 health ministers’ meeting finished on Sunday with member states signing an agreement on tackling shared global health challenges, including:

  • better surveillance, data and information sharing to protect the world against another pandemic
  • incentivising the development of new antibiotics to tackle the rising threat of AMR across the G7
  • member states investing in research into dementia and future treatments

The Secretary of State also spoke at a side event on dementia in which he recognised the need for global, as well as domestic, solutions which improve knowledge and understanding of dementia, helping to drive the production of innovative treatments and medicines.

The G7 health ministers’ meeting took place in Nagasaki, Japan, from Saturday 13 May to Sunday 14 May 2023. The G7 leaders summit will take place in Hiroshima from 19 to 21 May 2023.

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