SHROPSHIRE Council has welcomed government funding supporting a two-year project examining how 5G technology can help deliver health and social care services in rural parts of Shropshire.

The council is one of the partners in the ‘West Mercia Rural 5G’ project, starting on April 1, and focus on innovative ways to deploy 5G networks in rural areas, especially on the borders where Shropshire, Herefordshire and Worcestershire meet.

The Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) announced the award of £3.3m to Worcestershire County Council, who will be the accountable body for the project.

The project will explore infrastructure challenges when planning, building and operating a rural 5G network, and how 5G can enhance services for the benefit of residents, particularly in the areas of health and social care.

Led by Worcestershire County Council, other partners in the project include local NHS organisations, alongside Airband and Three – who will plan, build and operate the 5G network. University Centre Shrewsbury, The University of Worcester, and West Midlands Academic Health Science Network are providing their expert support across the project.

The West Mercia Rural 5G project primarily focuses on ‘health and social care’ applications, particularly ‘assistive technology’, and brings together two distinct challenges:

How councils, Clinical Commissioning Groups and other care providers in rural areas find new models for delivery when funding is stretched due to increasing demand.

Lee Chapman, Shropshire Council’s Cabinet member for organisational transformation and digital infrastructure, said: “While we still need to do further work with Worcestershire County Council on the detail of our council’s involvement, this project offers Shropshire Council a significant opportunity and is very positive news.

“At a time of increasing demand for public services, improvements in connected technologies offer new ways of working that can help maintain and improve service delivery and quality of life for our residents and our businesses.

“With a range of new assistive technologies being developed, improved connectivity will enable and allow new technologies that lead to potential improvements in key services and previously unviable new services.

“This project will help us to explore how 5G and associated technologies could support community care and improve quality of lives, as well as improve access and connectivity between health and care services and professionals.

“We’ll be engaging closely with Shropshire Clinical Commissioning Group and encouraging their participation in the project, and will co-ordinate the project with all digital health care and assistive technology work currently being undertaken within Shropshire Council.”

Oliver Dowden, Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, said: “We want the UK to be a world-leader in 5G which means making sure the countryside isn’t left behind in the digital revolution.

“We’ve invested £3.3 million in this project to explore how we can harness the power of 5G connectivity to transform health and social care for rural communities across Shropshire, Herefordshire and Worcestershire.”