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NHS Digital seeks out wireless healthcare innovation

Funding is available across the NHS for innovative projects that use wireless technology within healthcare

NHS Digital is running a series of trials to explore how cutting-edge wireless technologies can support the delivery of better health and care.  

The organisation has opened its Wireless Centre of Excellence to test out new applications and encourage the development of wireless technologies in the NHS that help improve connectivity in health and care settings. The scheme will run for one year, but NHS Digital said it would consider longer trials.

NHS organisations wanting to take part need to submit an overview of their wireless project, its objectives, the anticipated outcome and impact for delivery of health or social care, as well as the healthcare need or technological challenge they are seeking to overcome.   

Previous NHS Digital wireless trials include University College London Hospitals’ Find and Treat service, which provides real-time remote diagnosis and referrals on board a mobile health unit. It includes artificial intelligence (AI) software, a tele-radiology network to allow remote reading of X-rays using the trial’s flat-pack satellites, 4G and 5G routers, roaming SIM cards and smart antenna systems, as well as a digital portable X-ray camera. The service provides screening, testing and treatment for vulnerable, homeless and high-risk people in London.   

Another trial, running in South London and Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust, became the UK’s first 5G-connected hospital. Maudsley Digital Lab’s series of digital health and innovation trials have been funded by NHS Digital and use a private 5G network providing dedicated connectivity for mission-critical digital health use cases for both clinicians and patients.

The trials are investigating the efficiency, safety and security benefits of using smart, 5G-connected technologies in NHS hospitals – including internet of things, augmented reality and AI. 

Patrick Clark, director of infrastructure services at NHS Digital, said: “Wireless technologies will continue to play an increasingly important role as the NHS looks to implement new models of care to allow patients to receive treatment at home or in mobile health settings. They will also help provide clinicians with access to data and digital systems wherever they need it.

“We are already seeing many of the benefits of cutting-edge wireless technology and innovation – from enabling real-time remote diagnosis in a mobile health unit to supporting live observations in the first 5G hospital in the UK.    

“These projects are a step forward in digital transformation and will bring an array of benefits, particularly for those least able to access healthcare and for digitally isolated hospitals and health centres. We look forward to working with successful triallists this year to further realise the benefits of wireless technologies and high-speed connectivity in improving healthcare.”

Applications for the trials close on 29 July.

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