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Free Wi-Fi to cover entire NHS estate in 2019

Nearly all trusts and clinical commissioning groups across England are now equipped with NHS Wi-Fi and the rest will be fully connected this year, says NHS Digital

Nearly all of the NHS trusts and GP practices across England now have broadband access, according to NHS Digital.

The target to have 95% coverage was exceeded by 31 March, with 95% of GP practices (6,749 locations) and 98% of NHS trusts (212 locations) connected with free NHS Wi-Fi.

The remaining four trusts and 10 clinical commissioning groups (CCGs) have their own Wi-Fi procurements under way and are expected to be connected this year, says NHS Digital.

Jo Panter, practice manager at Bury CCG, which is responsible for 30 GP practices and medical centres and is one of the early adopters of NHS Wi-Fi, said: “The practice staff have found having the Wi-Fi to enable laptops and tablets to be used for meetings has made a really positive impact and has changed our approach to the structure of practice meetings.”

Another early adopter, the Pennine Acute Hospitals NHS Trust, introduced Wi-Fi as a fully managed service via Wi-Fi Spark. The 100MB dedicated link provides enough bandwidth for a basic service.

According to the trust, improved availability and reliability of the Wi-Fi network has resulted in clinicians and practice staff using it more, with cyber security awareness improving as a result of protocols adopted during the implementation, as well as a reduction in patient complaints.

The nationwide roll-out follows a pledge in 2016 to offer free internet access to patients across the NHS. The plan came after digital champion Martha Lane Fox said in a report published in 2015 that the introduction of Wi-Fi would improve people’s take-up of digital services in health and social care by 2020.

Her recommendation was endorsed by then-health secretary Jeremy Hunt, who announced he would make funding available to improve Wi-Fi connectivity across the health service.

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