Today marks UN World Health Day. This year’s theme – nurses and midwives – couldn’t be any more fitting. At what is a critical time for everyone associated with the NHS, Phil Kemp, chief executive of Bruntwood SciTech, discusses the role the UK’s science and tech sector is playing in the battle against Covid-19 through diagnostic testing and how we can inspire the next generation to choose careers in the health and life science sectors.
Each year, UN World Health Day celebrates and helps to raise awareness of specific health themes to highlight priority areas of concern for the World Health Organisation across the globe. This year’s theme encourages us to take time to honour and show gratitude to those who play a critical role in keeping us healthy: nurses and midwives.
The UK’s nurses and the NHS are among the very best in the world but Covid-19 is straining their resolve and resources and so it’s here that the UK’s science and tech sector is proving critical.
Developing a successful testing procedure is essential to combatting the coronavirus. An accurate, efficient test allows the NHS to keep workers on the frontline, to focus their care on those who need it most, and track the spread of the disease, informing the response to the pandemic as it progresses.
Unsurprisingly, demand for tests is high. Starting from a small base of capability, the UK’s diagnostics sector has scaled-up rapidly, establishing major testing centres across the UK in just three weeks. It’s testament to both the capability, talent and innovation of UK businesses, and the quality of the facilities we have here.
Take Alderley Park for example, long recognised as a world-class life science campus, laboratories there have rapidly been redeveloped and brought back into use over the past two weeks to become one of the government’s first UK testing centres, run by the Medicines Discovery Catapult. This would not have been possible without the pooling of talent, resources and expertise from across government, universities, and industry at a time when collaboration has never been more important in order to make things happen.
And that theme of collaboration as a catalyst for action is one that we’re seeing time and time again; at Citylabs for example, situated on the campus of the UK’s largest NHS Trust - Manchester University NHS Foundation Trust - has turned its conference space into a mass storage and distribution centre for MFT Charity to provide nurses, midwives, doctors, and all those on the front line with daily care packages. Yourgene Health who are also based at Citylabs have turned their attention to the production of COVID-19 diagnostic tests as has global diagnostics company QIAGEN, who are also significantly scaling their own operations for testing, while other businesses in the life sciences and tech sector have pivoted their operations to help provide workers including nurses and midwives with the protective equipment they need; Dicey Tech at Manchester Science Park is just one such example using their 3D printing equipment to produce face shield PPE.
The immense effort displayed by some of the UK’s leading scientists throughout the crisis will no doubt go on to inspire the next generation of science and tech talent.
That’s not to say there isn’t still more work to be done – this is only the start of a monumental response. But we know that the UK science and tech sector is rising to the challenge by driving innovation to new levels, helping us to not only beat this pandemic but inspiring the next generation of healthcare professionals. On UN World Health Day, it’s vital that we acknowledge and celebrate not just all the exceptional work done by nurses and midwives, but also the UK’s outstanding science and tech sector and what it can achieve.