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Uber has signed a deal that could allow its drivers to be used by caregivers and patients in the U.K., as the ride-hailing app continues to expand beyond disrupting the taxi industry.

For the initiative, Uber has partnered with London-based startup Cera, which provides a number of care-related services to elderly people. The platform enables anyone to book emergency or long-term care from a smartphone, with family members able to communicate directly with the caregiver and receive updates on how things are progressing.

While Cera is primarily for private healthcare services, it has also now signed a deal with several London hospitals belonging to the National Health Service (NHS) (Britain’s publicly funded health body) which means that the NHS could effectively be paying for a caregiver’s Uber transport — but only if Uber is deemed to be the most efficient and cost-effective way to travel to see a patient.

Additionally, those requiring care will be able to book cars through UberASSIST or through UberWAV, which offer specially equipped vehicles driven by people with special training.

“Uber’s mission is for everybody to have access to reliable, safe and affordable transportation, and this partnership brings us a step closer to making that a reality,” said Jo Bertram, regional general manager at Uber. “Simply by tapping a button on our app, carers will be able to get to people quickly and efficiently, while those with mobility needs will have the freedom to get out and about.”

For most people, Uber is just an easy way to book a private car and driver through their smartphone. But Uber has effectively created a giant transport network that can be re-purposed to meet any number of needs. This could be for delivering food, as with UberEats, or other items, as with UberRush. And now we’re seeing Uber’s vast network put to use in the U.K. health care sector.

Though the NHS hasn’t directly employed the services of Uber here, instead doing so by proxy through Cera, the NHS has increasingly been turning to U.S. technology companies. Back in 2015, the NHS teamed up with Tinder to help raise awareness about organ donation among young people. And last year, Google-owned artificial intelligence startup DeepMind signed a five-year deal to access NHS patient data, with clinicians receiving automated alerts for patients who display signs of acute kidney ailments.

“This pioneering partnership between Cera and Uber will radically integrate care and transport through technology,” said Dr. Ben Maruthappu, cofounder and president of Cera. “Older people and those with disabilities will now have access to the highest quality drivers, while carers will be able to efficiently travel to ensure they can provide services in the right place at the right time.”


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