Ministerial visit to Europe’s first dedicated 5G health and social care pilot

Margot James, Minister for Digital and Culture, this week visited Europe’s first dedicated 5G health and social care pilot, helping people live independently at home.

Minister for Digital and Culture, Margot James, has been in Liverpool to find out how 5G technology is helping to improve the delivery of health and social care services to people in Kensington living with long-term health conditions.

73 year old Catherine Miller has epilepsy, whilst her partner 57 year old Kenneth Farrag takes medication for diabetes. The couple welcomed the minister into their home in Kensington. They both have a mild learning disability and live semi-independently in their own home, run by Community Integrated Care in Kensington.

The minister said she had some great innovation and care whilst in Liverpool: “5G has the potential to revolutionise every aspect of our lives, from increasing productivity to improving quality of life.

“Our successful Liverpool testbed is key to delivering this progress, exploring how we can harness the power of 5G connectivity to transform health and social care.”

Catherine and Kenneth are taking part in a new pilot run by Liverpool 5G Health and Social Care that’s investigating how 5G technology can better support new health and social care technologies.

As part of the trial the couple have had a Safehouse Sensor installed in their home, which detects falls, changes in temperature and unusual behaviour patterns. The technology enables Catherine to live at home as she gets older by alerting care providers if they need to visit her – removing the need for unnecessary visits.

The couple are also trialling a ‘PAMAN’ device. PAMAN provides a video link to a local pharmacy, helping people to take medicines at home safely. The technology allows Kenneth to manage his diabetes himself, whilst continuing to enjoy the independence and social interaction he gains from having a job at Iceland.

Catherine is one of the 36% of over 65s in the UK living with at least one long-term illness*. As the population ages the pressure on the NHS and social services to do more with less increases. Innovative technologies like these help people manage their own health at home rather in hospital (evidence shows people are more likely to stay well at home and retain the skills they need to be independent.) This also means valuable health and social care resources can be re-deployed where they are most needed.

Efficient and appropriate use of resources is also a priority for the NHS so technologies like PAMAN that help reduce medicine waste and overuse are important. The NHS spent £17.4 billion on medicines in 2016/17 (not including medicines given by care providers to people at home) and aims to reduce this cost.

The technologies being trialled by Catherine and Kenneth are supported by 5G technology. The 5G connection is free to volunteers taking part in the pilot. This free internet provision during the pilot, gives people who may not have their own internet connection access to valuable health technologies.

Liverpool 5G Health and Social Care is the first 5G supported health trial of its kind in Europe and was given £3.5 million by the government as part of government’s 5G strategy, to see if 5G technology could provide measurable health and social care benefits in a digitally deprived neighbourhood.

11 new technologies are being supported by 5G as part of the pilot, in Kensington and at the Royal Liverpool and Broadgreen University Hospitals NHS Trust. They include two new loneliness apps ‘Push to Talk’ that links older people up for a chat and a loneliness quizzing app, which is being used by people with a learning disability at Kensington Community Learning Centre.

‘Telehealth in a Box’ is improving communication between Royal Liverpool and Broadgreen University Hospitals NHS Trust, and the community. This enables patients to be discharged earlier. 5G supported virtual reality headsets are also being used at the hospital for pain distraction therapy. Vulnerable older people in Kensington are using a device that detects dehydration.

5G technology was chosen to support these health technologies because it is faster, more reliable and can transfer more data than existing options. It is the perfect technology for supporting Internet of Things (IoT) health and social care devices that people rely on to stay well at home.

The wireless 5G network Liverpool 5G is using has been designed by Bristol based company Blu Wireless. It uses existing fibre to create a wireless mesh network that can be built into street-lights. This allows internet service providers to use unlicensed spectrum band to provide Gbit connectivity to homes. It is cheaper because there is no need to install fibre connections to people’s homes.