Virtual visits for care home residents
Partnership with Openreach brings gigabit-capable broadband boost
Residents of a Cambuslang care home have been enjoying unlimited video calls with their families during the latest lockdown – thanks to a new ultrafast broadband connection from Openreach.
Flemington Care Home, on the outskirts of Cambuslang, has been operating under pandemic restrictions since March 2020 to protect nearly 90 residents from the risk of Covid-19.
The old broadband connection at the home was too slow to allow more than one resident to enjoy a video call at any one time, and hampered staff from using virtual GP consultations or online training and tools.
Now, after care home owner Brian McNamara contacted Openreach for help, the home has seen its broadband speed shoot up from around 0.5Mbps to 300Mbps.
Brian said: “We’re located out in the country and our links just weren’t good enough to cope with our internet demand, even before the pandemic started.
“The bandwidth was sketchy at the best of times, which meant residents having to take turns to have short video calls with their relatives. We have nearly 90 residents, so that was adding up to more than 40 hours and staff time spent on a half-hour Zoom call for each resident a week.
“The difference between the first lockdown and the second could not be more marked. Now we’re only limited by the number of devices we have. Residents can use video and other digital resources as much as they like and their screen time with family is limitless.
“It’s great for families too as they can check in with their loved ones much more frequently. It’s much more flexible and less frustrating, without screen freeze or loss of sound."
Brian contacted Openreach to ask about a Community Fibre Partnership, and the digital network business used gap funding from the UK Government’s Gigabit Broadband Voucher Scheme alongside its commercial contribution to build a gigabit-capable, full fibre network.
As well as the upgrade for Flemington Care Home, which cares for residents aged from 19 to 100, the project also benefited 20 other local households which were also struggling with slow broadband.
Brian added: “As well as the obvious difference it’s made to residents and their loved ones, there are also many benefits to our business operations. Staff from different departments have been unable to meet in person for months, but now they can collaborate online. We’re also implementing digital care planning and medication management, which will give us instant access to records, and now have the security of automatic data back-up.
“There are so many small things that make such a big difference and these efficiencies allow us to focus our time on caring for our residents. For both our service users and staff, it’s making a huge difference.
“We care for adults of all ages and our younger residents are very keen to use technology. We have a 19-year-old who is a gamer and wants to game internationally. His eyes lit up like Christmas when he realised connectivity would no longer be a barrier.”
Robert Thorburn, partnership director for Openreach Scotland, said: “We’ve been working flat out to keep Scotland connected during the pandemic. The traffic on our network doubled during 2020 as people did more and more online, and that shows no sign of slowing down.
“We know that great connectivity at work and home is essential but Covid-19 has shown that it also has a huge impact on tackling social isolation. Having full fibre broadband will now make life easier for the residents and staff of Flemington Care Home, keeping them connected to the organisations who support them and giving residents much better access to communicate with loved ones in the outside world.”
Ten full fibre broadband facts:
- Connecting everyone in Scotland to full fibre broadband by 2025 would create a £4.5 billion boost to the nation’s economy.
- Fibre optics are strands of glass around one tenth the thickness of a human hair. They transmit data using light signals.
- A single strand of fibre can provide enough capacity to serve up to 32 individual properties with Gigabit speeds.
- Pure fibre optic broadband can run at speeds of 1 gigabit per second (1000Mbps) – more than 15 times faster than today’s UK average broadband speed. You can download a two-hour HD film in less time than it takes to make a cup of tea. And video gamers could download a 5-gigabyte virtual reality (VR) game in 1.7 minutes, instead of waiting half an hour.
- More people getting online at the same time is easier too – a family of four can all stream ultra HD or 4k quality video simultaneously, without waiting or buffering.
- Full fibre is more reliable than traditional copper connections. A full fibre broadband signal isn’t affected by external interference whereas copper can be impacted by outside electrical signals – including electric fences, bad weather and even old TVs!
- A fibre optic cable can send a signal over 120 miles without any real loss of quality. Traditional copper cables can lose signal at around one mile.
- Full fibre is better for the environment – the amount of electricity used to power fibre is significantly less than needed for copper cables. Better connectivity also enables more people to work from home – which cuts down on commuting. Research suggests fibering up the whole of the UK could save 300 million commuting trips – reducing carbon emissions by 360,000 tonnes.
- Full fibre can boost business productivity. It enables cheaper broadband powered phone services, and better access to cloud-based computing services. For example, full fibre connectivity combined with cloud computing means businesses can upload, store, access and download vast amounts of data in minutes instead of hours. Data is backed up and securely archived off-site so not relying on costly, ageing servers taking up expensive office space.
- Full fibre broadband will be crucial in supporting plans to give NHS patients access to ‘virtual clinics’ where patients who don’t physically need to come hospital can get a video consultation with their doctor. It can also allow hospitals to share HD quality graphics of medical scans in seconds to improve diagnosis speeds. For example, medical staff can download a 2 gigabyte CT scan in 40 seconds, instead of 14 minutes.
Photos: Images show Flemington’s resident gamer Jack, aged 19, who can now access live games and updates with ease, and nurse Kate with resident Isobel, who's able to enjoy more virtual contact with the outside world.