Doctor surgeries, ambulance stations and community hospitals are some of the 300 plus sites across North Wales to receive better broadband connectivity, all thanks to the Local Full Fibre Network (LFFN) scheme, led by Ambition North Wales and funded by the UK Government.
The health care sector has faced unprecedented challenges due to the pandemic over the last two years. An increase in demand for patient services and the introduction of new procedures have put significant pressure on the sector. With Covid constraints in place, the shift towards virtual consultations and online services has amplified the reliance on technology and digital connectivity.
The LFFN scheme has targeted public sites in north Wales, including those sites that are the first point of contact in the health care system. Helping those sites to tackle some of the challenges caused by slow or unreliable broadband services, supporting them to adopt more efficient ways of working digitally and ultimately helping them to improve patient service delivery.
One GP Surgery, which has seen benefits from the scheme is Caerffynnon Surgery, Dolgellau. Sarah Tibbetts, Practice Manager, said:
Having better broadband connection means that we have been able to provide a better service to our patients. A reduction in waiting for administrative tasks to be completed has led to patients waiting less for an appointment. We have also been able to add services such as video conferencing to help patients remotely, which has made a huge difference to many of our patients, especially those who are most vulnerable.”
Another beneficiary from the scheme is Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board. Chief Executive, Jo Whitehead, said:
World-class communications are essential to us so that we can ensure our services meet the needs of the local population. Faster, more reliable connections can transform the way we live and work. The better broadband supports our teams and systems across north Wales to become more resilient.”
The £6.5 million scheme, the largest of its kind in Wales, extends fibre connectivity across the public sector alongside wider investment in communities from both governments. This includes services within rural communities that have previously suffered from poor digital connectivity but are now receiving more reliable, faster broadband connections.
Councillor Dyfrig Siencyn, Chair of the Economic Ambition Board, said:
We all know the pressure that this sector has faced over the past two years – being able to play a part in helping those services operate more efficiently is worthwhile.
“No longer is fast connectivity nice to have, it is a necessity and will continue to grow over the coming years. Our LFFN scheme has meant faster and more reliable connections at key sites, including rural communities, which will help services and businesses across North Wales work better and become more productive in the longer term.”
Funded by the UK Government, the scheme has also involved upgrading connectivity for council buildings across the region.
UK Government’s Digital Infrastructure Minister, Julia Lopez, said:
I'm proud to hear our broadband investment is making a difference for people in north Wales. This is levelling up in action, boosting public services with the best possible broadband, no matter where people live.
“It is just the start of our plan to boost broadband in Wales, with thousands of hard-to-reach homes and businesses set to get next-generation connections through our £5 billion Project Gigabit.”