The counties of Shropshire and Worcestershire both have a large land mass that is classified as rural – 97.5% and 84% respectively.
Providers of rural healthcare generally face higher costs than those covering urban areas, with considerably higher costs per head. The variation in costs is partly due to the remoteness of sparsely populated, rural communities, which mean that both service providers and service users need to travel long distances for health and social care. In contrast, high density locations offer reduced travel times and are more efficient as more service users can receive care.
Nevertheless, every service user has the right to receive quality care, regardless of their location.
Delivering this care comes at a higher cost to local authorities and service providers in rural areas, who often face difficulties with staff recruitment and retention, higher staff costs overall, whilst still maintaining services according to national guidelines.
Therefore, to reduce costs to local authorities and service providers, whilst still providing the level of care that the service user expects, innovations in technology and improvements in network connectivity offered by 5G, have the potential to transform health and social care and bring efficiencies in how service is delivered.
The DCMS funded project through West Mercia Rural 5G, looks to explore the innovations that deploying 5G to rural areas can bring, both through improved technologies, such as remote monitoring of patients, as well as the straightforward connectivity benefit that 5G offers.