By Anne Sheehan, Business Director, Vodafone UK
The COVID-19 pandemic has been a challenge for almost every organisation, large or small – and the NHS has been no exception. Through innovation and hard work, the NHS has undoubtedly risen to the challenge. On behalf of Vodafone, I would like to thank everyone at the NHS for the work they have done over the last few months, and continue to do.
I’m really proud of the work Vodafone has done to support the NHS in dealing with the new challenges of COVID-19: doubling the calling capacity for the NHS 111 service to help it manage a huge increase in the number of people seeking advice remotely; providing free network support and technical assistance for the temporary Nightingale hospitals; enabling Wi-Fi calling connections for hospitals around the country; offering our customers who are NHS staff and care workers free unlimited mobile data for six months; and more.
The NHS changed its ways of working at speed, with technology being central to the NHS’s ability to continue to function effectively and to serve the people who depend on it. The rapid changes to ways that NHS staff interacted with each other and with patients while maintaining social distancing would simply not have been possible without digital technology.
Technology has already helped to transform the NHS at short notice at a critical time. But it promises even more in the future – particularly with the roll-out of 5G and Internet of Things (IoT) technology. The possibilities unleashed by 5G
and IoT touch almost every part of the healthcare system, from the visible (remote surgery, or drones carrying transplant organs and drugs between hospitals) to the unseen but vital (IoT-enabled hospital equipment management systems that use sensors to automatically monitor stock levels). Both NHS patients and staff stand to benefit from these technological innovations.
New polling carried out on behalf of Vodafone UK shows that a clear majority of the public want the NHS to use 5G and IoT applications. For example, four out of five of those polled say they would like to see 5G-connected ambulances, and three out of five back the use of 5G remote assisted surgery and drone technology, and believe that video consultations are more convenient than visiting a GP surgery or hospital in person. A similar proportion (57%) would be comfortable having medical appointments via video even once the coronavirus pandemic is over.
Our polling shows very strong public support for the Government to increase the use of the latest digital technology in the NHS so that we future-proof the UK healthcare sector. In particular, the public believes that the 40 new NHS hospitals promised by the Government by 2030 should be fully equipped with the latest digital technology, including 5G. This technology is already available and the NHS should take advantage of it now. We have a perfect opportunity to ensure that digital technology is designed in from the start, so that the hospitals of the future can use the technology of the future.
Healthcare has always been an early adopter of the latest technology. New technologies have often been used to make healthcare better, faster and more efficient. It is vital that the NHS is given the opportunity to maximise the benefits of the next big technological innovations, driven by 5G, as it has in the past. By committing to make the NHS the world’s leading 5G healthcare provider, Government can ensure that healthcare professionals and workers have the very best technology they need to do their jobs effectively.