Rural Connectivity

There is a real tendency in all national digital plans to assume that all areas of Scotland enjoy the same levels of connectivity as are found in urban areas of the central belt.

Over 400,000 people in Scotland live in areas more than an hour from a District General Hospital and many of these areas are those in the 'final 2%' of various forms of connectivity, no mobile phone coverage, poor broadband speeds etc.

There's a strong argument that these areas are the ones that would benefit most from digital technologies, large areas, low population densities, often significant tourist numbers (with incomplete medical histories...), logistics challenges for transfers etc.

There's a clear need for NHS Scotland to be making the case for improved connectivity in these areas. Without it the provision of healthcare in these areas will become ever more inefficient as urban areas embrace digital health.

Why the contribution is important

Mnay rural areas of Scotland still have very poor mobile phone / broadband connectivity. We are all guilty of very rapidly assuming that everyone enjoys the same leveols of connectivity as we have in urban areas.

A survey of those centres covered by EMRS (Emergency Medical Retrieval Service) in 2012 showed that over half of rural NHS facilities (34 of 66) had no reliable mobile coverage.         

As well as direct impacts on clinical processes - access to information, logistics for arranging transfers etc. such digital isolation is a factor in the increasing difficulty of recruiting and retaining staff in rural areas.  

Without a significant improvement in rural connectivity we will drift toward a two-tier service, one urban, connected, digital and efficient and another rural, with poor digital connectivity and reliant on increasingly inefficient paper-based services with increasing difficulty in recruiting staff.

As a national agency NHS Scotland is well placed to make a strong case to prioritise improved digital coverage in rural areas. Without this we are simply abandoning colleagues in rural areas and focussing only on that part of the country which already enjoys good connectivity.

Whilst we would all agree that improved use of digital technology is vital in building a more modern and efficient service, even the best user technology is useless without underlying connectivity.


by DrewInglis on October 24, 2017 at 02:57PM

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  • Posted by LynneClark November 20, 2017 at 23:03

    Whose need is greatest for technology enables care and connectivity to services...the remote and rural patients with complex needs, frailty, housebound, lonely, no transport or access to public transport. It is within the govt gift to bring the superhighway straight into their home. Funded Broadband connectivity for elderly and disabled. Life-changing.
  • Posted by AJ November 28, 2017 at 14:38

    I completely agree that rural connectivity - including phone reception - needs to be considered before any dependancy on digital.
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