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A group of 20 clinical commissioning groups (CCGs) will roll out free Wi-Fi for patients across their GP practices by the end of March 2017.
This is part of a national programme to implement free Wi-Fi across the NHS by 2019 in both primary and secondary care.
The plans come after Martha Lane-Fox told the National Information Board in December 2015 that free Wi-Fi across the NHS estate will allow patients in hospitals to self-monitor their conditions using apps and stay in touch with family and friends.
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The 991 GP practices, spread out over 20 CCGs, will be early adopters of the Wi-Fi service, and patients will be able to access the internet via smart phones or tablets in the waiting room.
CCGs are able to choose their Wi-Fi provider from the Crown Commercial Service Network Services Agreement and are being given funding to roll out the service based on the size of the GP practices in their area.
Beverley Bryant, director of digital transformation at NHS Digital, said: “Procurement for NHS Wi-Fi is now open and the CCGs that are participating in the early adopter stage are keen to attract industry suppliers who can get on board and be part of delivering this digital milestone for health and care.”
“NHS Wi-Fi is vital to securing the long term future of NHS services by providing access to the latest health technology which will support doctors and nurse in their work and empower patients to make informed choices in their treatment and care,” she added.
By the end of 2017, all GP practices will be offering free internet access to patients.
Campaigners have been petitioning for years to get free Wi-Fi for patients installed, particularly in hospitals. Some NHS trusts have already deployed free Wi-Fi in their hospitals, but it won’t be provided universally across the NHS until spring 2019.
This is mainly due to the fact that many NHS hospitals are locked into contracts with suppliers of entertainment systems, which often include pay-for Wi-Fi, and would either have to wait until the current contract expires or negotiate a new deal with the provider.
NHS England’s director of digital experience Juliet Bauer said getting free Wi-Fi installed in NHS buildings is “an important step in the delivery of a digital healthcare experience”.
“It will help patients to manage their health by opening up access to digital platforms, such as online pharmacy services and approved patient apps, and enable doctors and nurses to maximise the benefits of new technologies,” she said.
“Patients will be able to access their GP record online through the Patient Online portal while in their consultation, empowering them to take more of an active role in discussing and managing their condition, which we know leads to better health outcomes.”