Last Sunday morning I drove to Deepdale in Preston. This wasn’t to join the many Prestonians who were off to Wembley to watch North End win the play off final but to walk across to Moor Park where my wife, daughter and daughter in law, along with hundreds of other women, were taking part in the Race for Life to raise money for cancer research. The rain had stopped and ladies in all shades of pink were running or walking at least 5 kilometres. Many of them were carrying or wearing items which bore the identity of someone suffering with the disease. It was heartening to see so many people participating and raising awareness as well as money.
From my knowledge of the treatments now on offer the research into cancer over the years has resulted in advances in treatment which mean that many more people now live for years after a diagnosis of cancer is made. Hopefully the money raised last Sunday will continue to be used effectively to make even more progress in finding ways to stop or delay the spread of tumours.
I had been to Moor Park a couple of days earlier to have my lunch whilst on the way to a meeting of the Digital Health Board. The Board had a presentation by a pathologist who pointed out how central pathology is to the work of the NHS, claiming that 80% of clinical decisions are made after a pathology test. Advances in technology mean that many tests do not need to be done in an expensive laboratory, though there is still a need for a central specialist diagnostic hub. Many more tests can now be done at the front line by for example using the lab in a box which at the point of care can deliver pathology in front of the patient undertaking a full range of tests in under 10 minutes.
I have written before about teleheath and medicine and this area of activity continues to develop rapidly. There are smart contact lenses which can monitor the level of glucose in tears in real time. A range of devices which monitor pulse, blood pressure, respiration, heart rhythm are available and can be used to alert the wearer to abnormal patterns which may need medical attention. We also heard about smart toilets, beds, carpets and clothing. The future will no doubt see more of these developments some of which will flourish others will fade but there is no doubt that just as cancer treatment is being transformed by application of the results of research, other areas of health particularly the management of long term conditions will also change as technology assists patients to monitor their own condition. It is perhaps timely then that I have been sent a copy of the North West Coast Academic Health Science Network business plan for 2015/16. In it are details of work done to promote innovation including precision medicines and digital health. This is in accordance with the mission to reduce health Inequalities and develop a vibrant economy alongside improving safety in health and social care.
I am not sure whether any of the money raised by the ladies in Preston will be used to join with the NWCAHSN or to support the work of the cancer strategic clinical network but however it is allocated I hope it will assist in the development of treatments for people who have cancer.