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01.05.19

All NHS hospitals and GP practices to be equipped with fibre optic internet

All NHS hospitals, GP practices and community care services are to be equipped with full fibre optic internet, under plans announced by the health secretary.

Part of the NHS Long-Term Plan’s bid to improve connectivity and modernise healthcare services, all NHS organisations will get the fastest broadband available in order to improve the range and quality of digital services offered to patients.

Matt Hancock said nearly 40% of NHS organisations are currently using slow and unreliable internet supplied through copper lines which restricts the ability to offer digital services to patients.

He declared that every patient will now get the right to choose a “digital first” approach to primary healthcare, and more than 307 million patient consultations with GPs each year will be offered online as well as face to face in the future.

Under the NHS 10-year plans, hospital outpatient clinics will also be redesigned with ‘virtual clinics’ involving video consultations, and cloud-based patient records will help clinicians access crucial information anywhere in the country.

The health secretary said the NHS-wide upgrades to broadband internet would provide the fast and more reliable connections needed for video consultations and sharing high-definition images at speed.

The NHS has been widely criticised for its outdated IT systems, its slow progress adapting to modern technology and the lack of digital literacy amongst the NHS workforce. In July FOI requests revealed that more than 8,000 fax machines are still being used in England by the NHS.

Hancock has since put forward his vision for “the most advanced health and care system in the world,” which was built on by the release of the NHS Long-Term Plan, and the health secretary has also ordered a complete phase-out of the “archaic” fax machine.

Hancock commented: “Every day, our NHS staff do amazing work – but too often they are let down by outdated and unreliable technology. It’s simply unbelievable that a third of NHS organisations are using internet that can sometimes be little better than dial-up.

“To give people control over how they access NHS services, I want to unlock the full potential of technology - this is the future for our 21st century healthcare system and a central part of our NHS Long Term Plan.

“Faster broadband connections can help us deliver these dramatic improvements – we need clinicians and other healthcare professionals to feel confident they can access fast, reliable broadband so they can provide patients with the best possible care.”

Image credit - BrianAJackson

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