Poor rural broadband 'could limit elderly healthcare options'

A decline in healthcare services for the elderly could be one of the consequences of poor broadband provision in rural areas, research has warned. Recent findings published by the Local Government Association's Post-Brexit England Commission highlighted various problems and challenges people living in rural communities could face after Britain leaves the European Union. One concern is unreliable mobile and broadband connectivity in these locations, which could be equally problematic for consumers and businesses. Sub-standard internet connections could result in elderly people living in more remote areas not being able to use valuable healthcare innovations, such as smart devices that can monitor physical activity and alert carers or family members if something is wrong. Such devices could offer a solution to social care shortfalls, as they allow older people to maintain their independence without having to rely on expensive at-home carers. According to a Post-Brexit England Commission report titled 'The future of non-metropolitan England: Moving the conversation on', there remains an "unmistakable digital divide in the country between urban and non-metropolitan areas". The commission said it had received evidence suggesting that some of the biggest possible reductions in healthcare costs lie in "technologies that will allow rural communities to be looked after with smart devices, negating some of the need for outreach services". It added: "However, as detailed previously, issues with digital connectivity in non-metropolitan areas remain a barrier to their implementation on a wider scale." This follows calls from the Country Land and Business Association (CLA) for Ofcom to compel mobile operators to extend 4G services to all businesses and communities, regardless of their location. Mark Bridgeman, Deputy President of the CLA, said the reluctance of network operators to invest in countryside areas could leave rural enterprises languishing in a "digital dark age".


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