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NHS England has opened its latest Wireless Trials programme, inviting NHS organisations to take part in pilots to explore new technologies.
Funding applications for the programme are now available for ideas that either aim to improve connectivity in health and care, or maximise the efficiency of existing digital infrastructure.
Organisations can apply through NHS England’s Connectivity Hub, and successful applicants will receive funding for their project, as well as support from the Connectivity Hub team, which will regularly review progress and milestones, as well as assisting with different stages of the project.
NHS England’s executive director of platforms, Stephen Kock, said wireless technology plays an increasingly important role in delivering “effective and efficient digital health services to provide the best care for patients”.
“The wireless trials are designed to help the NHS understand how existing and emerging Wi-Fi solutions can support the delivery of better health and social care across the wider NHS,” he said.
“We look forward to working with successful trialists to explore opportunities for wireless technologies and high-speed connectivity that take another step forward in digital transformation and in improving patient care.”
This is not the first time wireless trials have been launched. 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.
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It included 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.
In July 2022, NHS Digital, which is now part of NHS England, opened its Wireless Centre of Excellence, encouraging the development of wireless technologies in the NHS. The scheme was originally going to run for one year, but at the time, NHS Digital said it would consider longer trials.
The Wireless Trials programme aims to provide NHS organisations with the capabilities they need to deliver the digital ambitions set out in the NHS Long Term Plan, published in 2019, with the goal of creating an NHS built around the needs of the patient, using technologies to improve access to services and focusing on prevention and early detection of diseases.
At the time, NHS England described the plan as a “blueprint to make the NHS fit for the future”, using technology to transform services, adding that the NHS will use “cutting-edge scans and technology, including the potential use of artificial intelligence” to transform services.