IT industry association techUK has called for action to accelerate the roll out of 5G technology in health and social care.
It has published a report with the Liverpool 5G Testbed, highlighting the expected benefits of the technology in the sector and making a series of recommendations to promote its deployment.
They are related largely to the roll out of assistive technology around the country, and include giving community health and social care professionals access to 5G technology at the earliest opportunity. This would apply particularly to rural areas where services and the options for getting online are limited.
It also urges the Government to review how the personal budgets programme could better support the take-up of personal digital devices, and use data to promote their benefits.
Feed into policy
Other steps include the Department of Health and Social Care and Department of Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) exchanging knowledge on 5G and feeding it to the recently formed NHSX, which is developing policy on digital health and social care.
There is a call for the new NHS England to give the public access to data beyond that held in primary care, and to capitalise on developments in 5G, AI, genomics and blockchain.
The report identifies the main advantages of the technology for supporting care, notably lower latency, the capacity to transfer large amounts of data and almost 100% reliability.
It also points to specific areas of potential for 5G in the field, such as remote monitoring of patients and support for robotic surgery, and highlights the work of the Liverpool 5G Health and Social Care Testbed.
This began last year as one of six projects supported by DCMS, and has received £1.48 million in funding for a second year. It has included the development of a pharmacy assistant to help people take their medication safely at home; ‘safehouse sensors’ to monitor the homes of vulnerable people for any falls or changes of behaviour; and a digital loneliness device named Push-to-Talk.
The testbed programme has also involved the provision of free 5G connectivity to homes in one of Liverpool’s most deprived areas.
Rosemary Kay, project director of the Liverpool 5G Testbed, said: “The innovative and transformative qualities of 5G can drive much needed changes to health and social care. 39% of us will be over 65 by 2036, so more people are living with age related conditions like heart disease and there’s less money to treat them.
“In addition, by 2022 analogue services will disappear so we need to find reliable, affordable solutions to current telehealth services, by that date, if we’re to continue caring for everyone.
“These are our priorities at Liverpool 5G Health and Social Care, we have created 5G supported apps and devices that help people with ongoing conditions to live independently at home for longer, without needing a hospital stay. 5G technology is faster, more robust, and supports more data than current options, making it perfect for supporting health devices that people rely on to stay well.”
Image by Olaf Kosinksy, CC BY-SA 3.0