Care home residents avoid screen freeze after broadband speed injection

Residents of a Scottish 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.

He added: “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 said: “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.”