Health Minister Edwin Poots today welcomed official recognition from the EU on Northern Ireland's innovative practices in health and social care.

Through the European Innovative Partnership on Active and Healthy Ageing (EIP-AHA), Northern Ireland is now seen as a forerunner in Europe in bringing about a higher quality of health and social care for the older population.

Innovation in medicines management, long term conditions management and implementation of Integrated Care Partnerships to enhance cohesion among health professionals involved in the care of older people have helped Northern Ireland achieve this world class recognition.

Health Minister Edwin Poots said: "This is great news for our health and social care service in Northern Ireland. Despite the fact we are a small region within the EU it is commendable that we are recognised for our excellence in this area of active and healthy ageing. Effectively managing medicines, so that patients receive the correct medicine at the correct time can not only help them return to good health more quickly, reducing the time spent in hospital, but can also prevent unnecessary hospital admissions."

Following an awards ceremony at the Hotel le Plaza, Brussels, opened by Neelie Kroes, Vice President of the European Commission, Northern Ireland was awarded 3 star Reference Site status. This was the highest level awarded and places Northern Ireland in a select group with twelve other regions across Europe.

Under the terms of the EIP-AHA, a Reference Site is defined as a region; city or integrated hospital/care organisation that provides a comprehensive innovation-based approach to active and healthy ageing.

Drawing on the links to the broader Connected Health agenda, the Minister continued saying: "The European Innovation Partnership agenda provides the opportunity to deliver better health and social care services to elderly through more innovative products and services. Helping older people improve their health and quality of life in areas like medicines management and long term conditions management through innovative practices like Telemonitoring highlights Northern Ireland prominence at the forefront of health care.

"Patient-centric innovation can deliver tangible benefits and also unlock business opportunities. Northern Ireland has embraced the Connected Health Ecosystem model which is key to taking this forward."

Acknowledging the potential for the award to unlock future funding the Minister continued saying: "Northern Ireland is now recognised as a leader in healthcare innovation. I believe that this puts us in a strong position to attract European funding for future projects."

Concluding on changes and challenging times ahead the Minister continued: "The compelling case laid out in the Transforming Your Care report is our road map to the future delivery of health and social care in Northern Ireland. I have said before that we need to stop doing those things that don't work, we need to challenge out of date practices and we need to ensure the best value from every penny available to us and maximise the use of our skills bases, particularly in prevention and early intervention. Embracing technology and adapting the way we do things will maintain Northern Ireland at the forefront of health and social care in the future."