As work gets started for a new £8.4m digital health centre in Chorley, Megan Titley explores how this could transform the county’s economy, with an injection of dozens of new, highly-skilled jobs.
A digital health park opening in Chorley is set to inject millions of pounds into the economy, creating 700 jobs and attracting experts.
But this could have bigger implications for Lancashire, drawing in more highly skilled job opportunities.
Councillor Alistair Bradley, Chorley Council leader, said that independent experts have estimated that the health park could generate an additional £18.5m for the Chorley economy.
A conference in Chorley last week about the transformative power of digital technology in the health sector drew 130 highly qualified professionals to the area.
“Digital technology is the business of the future and this development will put Chorley right at the centre of digital technology in Lancashire,” said Councillor Bradley.
“We are really excited to be creating such a high quality business facility in Chorley which will create the wealth of tomorrow with hundreds of well paid and skilled jobs.
“This is one of the most significant business developments to happen in Chorley for a generation and it will drive forward economic growth.”
The Digital Health Village masterplan for the 32-acre site in Euxton
Lane has outline planning permission for industrial and employment units, a care home, a convenience store and housing.
While Chorley Council will cough up £4m for the scheme it was also awarded over £4.1m from the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF).
Babs Murphy, Chief Executive of the North & Western Lancashire Chamber of Commerce said: “This is excellent news.
“Chorley has seen more than its fair share of economic decline in recent years and this funding will provide the catalyst to deliver something special that puts the town back firmly on the road to recovery.
“It will provide a much needed boost to the local economy, to the local labour market and it will certainly attract new businesses to this centre of excellence.”
Digital health park
The ground-breaking new digital health park is due to be created as part of a new development of businesses, care facilities and houses at a site known locally as Strawberry Fields, off Euxton Lane.
The digital health park would be a hub for Lancashire and the wider area, providing offices and other facilities suitable for companies looking at how new technology can be used in healthcare.
The proposals also include a care home and a specialist care facility, a convenience store, family pub and light industrial units.
A total of 700 jobs are expected to be created.
There would also be up to 125 homes, of which 35 would be affordable.
Work is expected to start on the site next year.
3D printed kidney for transplant
Speaking at the Chorley health conference was transplant registrar, Pankaj Chandak, at London’s Guy’s and St Thomas’ Hospital is known for using 3D printing to support highly complex kidney transplant surgery.
He and his team used 3D printing to assist and successfully transplant an adult kidney into the body of a baby girl.
Toddler Lucy Boucher, from Northern Ireland, suffered heart failure as a baby when she developed supraventricular tachycardia - meaning her heart was beating irregularly faster than normal.
This resulted in her body, including her kidneys, being starved of oxygen.
Having undergone surgery to address her heart condition, Lucy faced the prospect of a lifetime of dialysis treatment due to her kidney failure but that all changed when she was referred to experts at Guy’s and St Thomas’.
They performed the transplant using a kidney donated by her father, Chris Boucher.
Models of Chris’ kidney and Lucy’s abdomen were produced using Guy’s and St Thomas’ 3D printer so that the surgeons could accurately plan the highly complex operation to minimise the risks.
It is the first time in the world that 3D printing has been used to aid kidney transplant surgery involving an adult donor and a child recipient.
In order to safely transplant the kidney surgeons scanned her kidney, printed it using pioneering 3D technology which allowed them to then trial how to fit the organ to the youngster before undergoing the actual surgery.
Surgeons at the hospital are now using the technology to enhance the precision and accuracy of robotic cancer surgery.
Mr Chandak says the benefits of the technology are many. “It’s translatable and it allows a personalised consent process for the families and provides an archive collection of models for future students,” he said.
Consultant head and neck surgeon, Ajith George, at University Hospitals of North Midland NHS Trust is also managing director of endoscope-i, an iPhone system that allows clinicians to record and view videos and images of endoscopies.
The endoscope-i consists of an endoscope adapter and an app, which are used together to film endoscopies of the ear, nose and throat.
“It’s amazing how the GPs embraced it,” says Mr George. “We really saw a problem and when we took the technology to GPs and they absolutely loved it.
“We took our vision to them, our vision was wrong and we have had to change it and I think they find it really refreshing that we came along and said this is our technology, how can we make it work for you.”