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21.12.15

All NHS buildings to get free wi-fi, Hunt says

Every NHS building will have access to free wi-fi in an effort to improve treatment and bring down costs, health secretary Jeremy Hunt has said.

Although the government has not set a deadline for this, Hunt has pledged to use a slice of the £1bn NHS technology fund to improve the currently patchy service, with some hospitals charging for internet while others lack access entirely. Separately, he has already promised to make the NHS “digital and paperless” by 2018.

“Everyone using the NHS expects it to be a world leader in digital healthcare and free wi-fi is an essential part of making that a reality,” he said.

“It will give patients and staff the ability to access the services they need as well as freeing up clinical time and reducing overall costs.”

When available, patients will be able to use their smartphones or other devices to go online, keep in touch with family and friends or watch on-demand television.

NHS officials also believe it will encourage using technologies that could reduce paperwork and blunders while also keeping doctors and nurses aware of medical issues.

A spokesman for the Department of Health said using e-prescribing, for example, could cut medication errors in half, as well as allow patients to wear monitors that alert medical staff of issues – helping more than one-fifth of diabetics who said they have experienced “largely avoidable” hypoglycaemic episodes while in hospital.

The department was unable to say what proportion of NHS facilities currently provide free wi-fi, but some hospitals have already replaced paper charts with mobile clinical systems in order to spot problems easily and accelerate data sharing.

Free wi-fi was also one of the four key recommendations set out in Baroness Martha Lane Fox’s report as part of her commission to accelerate digital inclusion in the health service.

She said wi-fi would enable patients to self-monitor their conditions using apps – one of the government’s main focuses during this Parliament, endorsing self-care as a method of prevention. Maintaining contact with family and friends can also greatly support recovery, Fox said.

Comments

Dr R   21/12/2015 at 17:25

Great idea. Very helpful for staff like me. All hospitals I work in have variable 3G signals with differing mobile providers. WiFi is present at 1 of the 3 NHS hospitals I work in. Its very helpful in managing email and other work stuff. However, the IT dept in their wisdom have decided that gmail services should be block. This is a real PITA.

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