Transformation Directorate

What 5G can do for the adult social care sector

Britain’s telecommunication companies are rolling out 5G networks across the country. 5G connectivity can make a huge difference to adults who need social care and their carers. Eleanor Maw, wireless connectivity Policy Lead at NHSX, explains how wireless connections support more personalised, responsive care and how 5G is helping to transform the adult social care sector.

More than 350,000 older people in England use home care services, alongside 76,300 working age adults with learning or physical disabilities or mental health problems. NHSX is looking for ways for digital technologies to help the adult social care and health sectors work more closely together, improving care for individuals and allowing carers to spend more one-on-one time with the people they support.

Moving people’s care records from paper to digital formats is one big step forward. When a person receiving care has a Digital Social Care Record (DSCR), all the care and health professionals looking after them can update their record in real time, giving everyone the right information at the right time. But DSCRs are only really useful if there is reliable, fast, secure internet connection between care providers and other care and health professionals in all their different locations.

NHSX is looking at the range of suitable connectivity options including 5G, the next generation of mobile internet connection. The connecting infrastructure must have enough capacity to give care providers access to the DSCR, and allow them to contact social care and NHS colleagues and to update care notes in real time while they are with the people they care for. Having that degree of connectivity allows carers to get admin out of the way fast, leaving more time for hands-on, person-focused care. It also allows the people they care for and their friends and family to input information into their own care plans, where their GPs and hospital teams can see their changes straight away.

UK5G, the national innovation network formed to get the best from 5G for the UK, has launched an exciting new health and social care hub on their website.

The new hub contains a wealth of information, case studies and advice to help organisations in the health and social care sector seize the opportunities 5G offers them. 5G has data download and upload speeds up to 100 times faster than 4G. Its increased bandwidth supports multiple technologies and services at the same time, over the same network, for instance, sensors that allow care workers to monitor those in their care remotely and prevent minor problems from escalating.

Reliable, high speed internet connections also support video calls with medical staff, like GPs, as and when patients need them, helping to reduce unplanned admissions and manage health issues as they arise. For people receiving care, video links mean less disruption and potentially fewer visits to clinics or hospital, improving their quality of life. It also reduces pressure on NHS trusts, allowing them to save money without compromising on patient care.

UK5G has researched connectivity in the health and care sectors, drawing on experiences and innovation from across the globe, to make sure people receiving care in the UK benefit from technologies with the highest potential to improve their quality of life. The innovations they have identified will have a huge impact on the delivery of health and social care in England, with tangible benefits for trusts, health and social care workers, and the people they care for. You can read more about these on the UK5G hub.

NHSX worked with UK5G to make sure their researchers understood the needs of the adult social care sector, so improved connectivity can be directed at providing better and more personalised care for some of the most vulnerable people in our society.

Better connectivity for the adult social care sector will also go a long way to improving working conditions for this country’s valued social care professionals. Along with other investment in digital skills for the care workforce, it will help make adult social care an appealing career option. We’re excited to see UK5G’s work and other wireless connectivity initiatives powering better social care across the whole of England.