A Medical Device Daily

UK Health Secretary John Reid this week unveiled a major overhaul in the way the National Health Service (NHS) and social care services will deliver care to millions of people in England suffering from long-term conditions.

He said the changes are designed to improve the health and quality of life of those with such conditions, with a goal of preventing premature death and reducing the number of times they require emergency visits to hospitals.

The centerpiece of the new system is the community matron, a new type of health professional whose role will be to give one-to-one support to what Reid referred to as “the most vulnerable patients with long-term conditions.“ Community matrons will monitor their patients' health and coordinate the care and support needed to achieve a better quality of life.

He said the NHS is committed to having 3,000 community matrons in place by March 2007.

Long-term conditions are those conditions for which there is no present cure but which can be controlled by medication and other therapies. They include diabetes, asthma and arthritis. More than 17.5 million people in the UK suffer from one or more long-term conditions. For some, these conditions go unmonitored and unmanaged until a hospital visit becomes necessary.

Reid said the NHS and social care long-term conditions model will provide the structured care that will keep people out of hospital, and in some cases prevent premature death.

He said the NHS is working toward a target of reducing by 5% the number of beds used by emergency in-patient admissions over the next three years. That target will back up the new changes. Currently, 10% of patients who stay in hospitals for their care account for 55% of hospital stays. Many have multiple chronic long-term conditions.

NHS and social care organizations will begin implementing the new long-term conditions model immediately, adapting it to meet specific local circumstances. In addition to assigning community matrons to the most vulnerable patients, these organizations will establish multi-professional teams that can identify all of the people in their area with serious long-term conditions, assess their needs as early as possible and provide proactive care before their condition deteriorates.

The program also involves educating those with long-term conditions about their health and encouraging them to manage their own care more effectively.

Reid said, “As the number of people with such illnesses increases, new ways of working must be developed to better identify when and where help and support is needed. We must provide uniformly excellent care close to home for people who are often vulnerable and in pain.“

Noting that there already are “some excellent examples of long-term conditions management,“ he added: “We want to see this excellence spread across the country. The new model of care . . . will provide the NHS with the blueprint to do just that.“

Irish, U.S. firms in design services partnership

Creganna Medical Devices (Galway, Ireland) has formed a strategic partnership with TDC Medical (Westborough, Massachusetts) under which the companies will work together and share resources in providing design and development services to the medical device industry.

Creganna's design, development and scaleable manufacturing services are focused on the area of minimally invasive devices. TDC will offer design support and regulatory assistance for FDA submissions.

The Irish firm will be co-located with TDC in its suburban Boston facility, where it will house some of its product development capability. Creganna said the partnership offers it “a well-located U.S. base to develop and support design and development projects.“

Creganna said its focus on minimally invasive devices has allowed it to build “an impressive range of skills, technologies and experience in this area,“ including global leadership in hypotube-based device shafts.

In addition to its headquarters in Galway and the planned collaboration with TDC, it has sales facilities in the Netherlands, Minnesota and California.

TDC Medical's focus is on hand-held devices used in many different medical specialties.

Distributor named for SpeechEasy device

SpeechEasy International (Greenville, North Carolina), the global marketing and distribution company for SpeechEasy fluency devices, said it has signed a European distribution agreement with Interton (Bergisch-Gladbach, Germany).

Interton will custom assemble SpeechEasy devices at its manufacturing plant in Bergisch-Gladbach and distribute them via speech therapists in 34 European and Scandinavian countries.

Darwin Richards, manager for SpeechEasy International, said, “Joining forces with Interton will enable us to bring the most advanced speech fluency technology directly to European consumers, who until now had to travel to the U.S. to receive a SpeechEasy device.“

Referring to the SpeechEasy product as “a remarkable device“ with “breakthrough“ technology, Stephan Sagolla, Interton managing director, said the device “provides such a unique opportunity for increasing fluency.“

The SpeechEasy device, a portable, inconspicuous unit that is custom-fitted and programmed for each user, helps people who stutter speak more fluently with less effort. It was developed by a team of communication disorder researchers at East Carolina University (Greenville, North Carolina).

In addition to the European and Scandinavian countries to be served by Interton, SpeechEasy also is available in the U.S., Canada, South Africa, Columbia and Israel.

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