Work to enhance services with 5G shortlisted for trio of national awards

The work of a University director and partners to enhance rural services with the latest wireless mobile technology is in the running for a trio of national awards.

Joseph McArdle, Director of Health and Medical Innovation and Transformation at the University of Chester’s Business School, and lead for the Digital Solutions programme based at University Centre Shrewsbury, has supported the delivery and evaluation of the West Mercia Rural 5G (WMR5G) initiative since its beginnings in 2020.

The cutting-edge Department of Digital, Culture, Media, and Sport Rural Connected Communities (DCMS RCC) project has explored new ways to deliver 5G in rural areas and how the fifth generation of mobile data can benefit health, social care and more in its communities.

The initiative has now been shortlisted in three categories at the National Connected Britain Awards, recognising the leaders shaping Britain’s digital future.

The consortium, led by Worcestershire County Council with partners: the University of Chester; University of Worcester; Shropshire Council; Airband; BT; Virtual Reality Simulation Systems (VRSS) and local NHS organisations within the West Midlands Academic Health Science Network, has been nominated for awards for:

  • Improving Digital Skills through its focus on care workers and care homes.
  • Access Innovation by trialling new approaches to accessing sites with minimal disruption to communities, so 5G technologies are more easily available to communities for trade, health and personal uses, and,
  • Barrier Removal through the partnership between the Local Authorities and the network providers enabling an accelerated approach to 5G delivery.

The project operated in the rural area where the counties of Shropshire and Worcestershire meet and, from 2020 to this year, looked at solutions to the infrastructure issues when planning, building and operating a rural 5G network; and how 5G has the potential to transform services for the benefit of residents, particularly researching 5G-enabled health and social care applications and the impact on staff. 

Specific ways to enhance services that have been investigated include:

  • Augmented Reality (AR) - evaluating the impact of AR solutions to track improvements in gait and movement for people using hospital Musculoskeletal (MSK) services.
  • Connected Worker - giving General Practitioners access to support workers in care homes equipped with wearable connected cameras and examining how effective the increased connectivity is in providing rapid access and information to assist the resident’s welfare.

Describing some of the benefits, Joseph said: “Social care has the biggest workforce in the UK with significant pressures on the care system. Improving skills and connectivity improves the lives of those who receive care and the attractiveness of careers in the sector.

“By using novel approaches such as connecting care homes with primary care health services using head worn tablets, we enable the workforce to take on new skills and develop further confidence to support the residents in their care.”

Mike Emery, Director of Data, Digital and Technology for Hereford and Worcestershire Integrated Care Board added: “We are delighted that Connected Britain has recognised the work of the WMR5G project. The initiative has opened eyes and changed attitudes and emphatically proven the worth of digital connectivity, particularly in the face of challenges such as on-going infection risk, continuation of and increased demand on services.

“Our project provides a catalyst to support improved mobile coverage in rural areas and begins to identify the art of the possible for mobile solutions to assist in the levelling up agenda, to support the delivery of health, social care and a range of other public and private services in rural areas.”

The winners of the prestigious awards will be announced as part of the two-day Connected Britain Conference - the UK’s most important connectivity event - taking place in London from September 20-21.

For more information on the West Mercia Rural 5G project, please visit: https://wmr5g.org.uk.

For further details on the Digital Solutions programme, which offers a minimum of 12 hours funded support to eligible SMEs in Shropshire to develop digital innovations, please go to: https://www.digitalucs.co.uk.

University Centre Shrewsbury is part of the University of Chester and offers undergraduate and postgraduate courses in the areas of: biosciences; medical sciences; computer science; psychology; education; nursing; business; events management; history and health and exercise.

For further information on UCS, please visit: www.chester.ac.uk/university-centre-shrewsbury - and for more on the Connected Britain Awards, see: https://www.terrapinn.com/conference/connected-britain/Award-Shortlist.stm.

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