NHS England awards £1m for wireless tech trials

The funding is split between seven trusts, which will be running wireless technology pilots aimed at improving patient care and improving connectivity

NHS England has awarded funding to seven NHS trusts to test cutting-edge technology as part of the Wireless Trials programme.

The programme will see the trusts each getting a share of the £1m funding to trial a range of technologies aiming to improve patient care and improve connectivity in health and care.

In August 2023, NHS England opened for applications for the programme, calling for NHS organisations to bid for the funding to explore opportunities for wireless technologies.

As well as funding, the trusts will also receive support from NHS England’s Connectivity Hub, which will regularly review progress and milestones, as well as assisting with different stages of the project.

Stephen Koch, executive director of platforms at NHS England, said that he had been impressed with the “innovative ideas coming from the system” and added that NHS England is “delighted to be able to award this funding to the successful trialists to develop new or improved wireless solutions for the NHS”.

“We’ll be monitoring the outcomes of the trials and are very hopeful that a number of these will be able to be scaled more broadly across the health and social care system saving clinical time, improving patient care and saving money for the system,” he said.

Successful trusts include Mid Cheshire and Princess Alexandra Hospital NHS trusts, which will use the money to implement wireless trackers on medical equipment and hospital beds, allowing them to be tracked, making it easier for staff to locate them when needed.

Another project at the Countess of Chester NHS Foundation Trust aims to wirelessly link diagnostic devices with the trust’s electronic patient record system, while Manchester University NHS Foundation Trust will combine satellite and cloud-based wireless solutions to improve connectivity across its sites and community services.

Manchester University NHS Foundation Trust’s group CIO Dan Prescott said that as one of the largest trusts in England, it is essential to provide continuous patient care.

“With the Wireless Trial, we’re aiming to create a reliable, fast and secure network access solution to address unexpected connectivity issues, even in areas of poor connectivity. This is vital in supporting key initiatives for our staff and giving our patients the best possible care,” he said.

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 that 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. 

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