A Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) has been agreed between Northern Ireland and the City of Oulu in Finland to underpin closer co-operation on new healthcare initiatives.

The agreement was signed in Finland on behalf of the Minister by Dr Andrew McCormick, the Department's Permanent Secretary, and Matti Pennanen, Mayor of the City of Oulu. Dr McCormick was visiting Finland to speak at a conference on Connected Health. Oulu is renowned for its research activities and as a major centre of competence in the field of high technology.

Mr Poots said that the agreement had its origins in his visit to Finland in February 2012. He said that the MOU would build upon the business and research links which already existed with Finland through the Northern Ireland Massachusetts Connection (NIMAC) and provided a foundation for collaborating in a more focused way on areas of mutual interest.

The Minister said: "Last February, it was agreed that my Department would work with the City of Oulu to find opportunities to promote health and business through co-operation. We are both eager to broaden our horizons, and we recognise the value of collaborating, sharing our own expertise, but also learning from that of others.

"Both Northern Ireland and the City of Oulu have embraced the Connected Health Ecosystem model to help stimulate healthcare innovation. I believe that this agreement will help to foster collaboration between our respective ecosystems, and to nurture and promote their future development.

"The priority areas on which we will be working together as highlighted in this agreement clearly align with the key aims of Northern Ireland's health and social care reform agenda set out in Transforming Your Care. The MOU focuses specifically on promoting customer-oriented services with supporting technological solutions; and transforming health and social care models and working methods."

The Minister went on to say that the effective use of new technological solutions would be a focal point for both parties to the agreement: "Finland is known to have a particular interest in Northern Ireland's remote telemonitoring service, one of the most advanced of its kind in Europe. A Finnish delegation visited Northern Ireland in May this year to learn more about the support being provided through the service to those suffering with long-term conditions. Oulu is also using technology in innovative ways to enhance the experience for service users, and we potentially have much to learn from the work they have undertaken. That is why we have agreed this MOU, to enable us to take the best from each other and in so doing ensure that our patients receive the highest standard of care."

Source: http://www.northernireland.gov.uk/index/media-centre/news-departments/news-dhssps/news-dhssps-june-2013/news-dhssps-120613-poots-welcomes-closer.htm