How can 5G benefit social care?

Article by Daniel Casson, Advisor on Digital Transformation at Care England

Many of the Care England members I talk to are doing their best to integrate innovative digital solutions to give even better care. There is the constant issue of connectivity and internet access. The Department for Culture Media and Sport (DCMS) is doing great work in Building Digital UK. In addition, there is some good guidance on Digital Social Care on Internet Connectivity. One development that could greatly benefit social care is the advent of the Government-supported UK 5G Innovation Network, which contacted me recently. Their comments and the examples they point to are enlightening. 

"Few sectors, if any, have been subject to as much sweeping change – and strain – as social care. In the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic, the essential services in this sector saved countless lives and kept the UK going. But beyond the challenges presented by the crisis and the burgeoning backlog, it also served as an incredible accelerator of digital transformation across the sector. 

Yet despite significant progress, lack of digitis     ation and connectivity still exists, and it is far from the only challenge it faces. Around 70% of the NHS budget is used for long-term condition management. As demand for services is increasing in social care, budgets are experiencing pressure, and there are significant concerns around recruitment and digital skills.  

A new way of working is needed as the UK moves towards an integrated approach to offer more 'joined up' care experiences for people who need care and support, improved health and wellbeing outcomes and less strain on services. 5G – and the digital technologies it enables – can support the desire to realise more people-centric care, a transition from a reactive to preventative model, and move the delivery of care from clinics to communities.     

The West Midlands 5G programme is, for example, currently using 5G to enable remote monitoring of care home residents, while the Liverpool 5G Create project is deploying sensors under care home beds to monitor the vital signs of residents. Using Artificial Intelligence (AI), the sensors are able to notify staff to assist; this enables more personalised, tailored care and should also reduce the number of accidents. 

UK5G is here to help the health and social care sector find the right resources and connections to map a clear path to 5G. In turn, granting access to digital tools, skills and resources will empower health and social care professionals to change how and where they deliver care, make every day less laborious and more rewarding, and ensure the UK population can benefit from more efficient, personalised care. 5G will unlock the efficiency, resilience and flexibility required to meet the UK's ever-growing health and social care needs." 

This is good news, and there are plenty of resources to help us get to better connectivity. If you have any advice for other Care England members on how you have dealt with your connectivity issues, please do let me know the good, or not so good, news stories, or if you would like to discuss connectivity issues, please do get in touch. If you would like to contact UK5G directly, please go UK5G Contact.