Vodafone Three lobbying campaign zeroes in on the NHS

pile of cash

5G, or the lack thereof, could have significant financial consequences for the UK’s National Health Service (NHS).

This is according to a study published this week by Vodafone. The UK-based telco has invoked the highly-emotive subject of healthcare as the latest ploy in its effort to win support for its merger with rival MNO Three. It follows a more broad survey about the tie-up’s supposed benefits to the UK economy published in June.

Research carried out by WPI Economics on behalf of Voda calculates that the use of 5G-enabled technologies in health and social care settings could save the NHS up to £1 billion every year. The telco warned that £79 billion of public spending will be required in the coming years to account for the strain placed on NHS and social care services by an ageing population.

Fast, reliable 5G could ease this strain by supporting new remote healthcare services, Voda said, enabling people to manage their health independently for longer. In care homes, Voda said connected sensors could help staff monitor residents in real time, improving care and reducing staff burnout. It would also make sharing data between care providers and hospitals easier, faster and more secure.

“As the NHS continues to grapple with tighter budgets and increasing demand, the need to modernise health care delivery becomes ever more necessary. This research underlines the importance of seizing innovative solutions like 5G-enabled technology,” said Stephen Hammond MP, former minister of state for health. “With thoughtful implementation, 5G presents an immense opportunity to deliver savings, and build the NHS we need for the future.”

Achieving this requires decent networks of course, and that’s where Vodafone and Three’s merger supposedly comes into play. They claim that the tie-up will unlock £11 billion of investment over the next 10 years, enabling them to cover 99 percent of the UK population with 5G standalone (SA) by 2034.

What Vodafone and Three would like people to think is that if they are not allowed to go ahead with the merger, then the NHS risks being £1 billion a year worse off.

“5G will support breakthroughs like at-home health scanning, personal devices and real-time access to medical expertise – innovations that will drive better health outcomes,” said Vodafone UK CEO Ahmed Essam. “To fully capture this potential, we need to rapidly build nationwide 5G coverage. Our proposed merger with Three UK will give us the scale to accelerate investment in digital infrastructure, allowing everyone to see the benefits of the 5G rollout faster.”

Vodafone needs to tread carefully with the NHS.

The UK public has always been a bit sceptical about promises pertaining to its national healthcare provider. It has become even more so in recent years, ever since a big red bus was seen driving around the country adorned with ambitious – and yet simultaneously ambiguous – pledges of NHS funding.

While no one is suggesting that a merged Vodafone/Three would have any direct responsibility for the NHS’s finances, it would nonetheless not be a great look for the combined company should these purported benefits of 5G to the NHS somehow fail to materialise.


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