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The NHS is aiming to provide free Wi-Fi across the entire estate by 2019, with secondary care providers offering free Wi-fi by March 2018.
Speaking at the National Information Board (NIB) summit, held during UK eHealth Week, Tom Denwood, Health and Social Care Information Centre’s national provider support director, said the NIB hopes to issue guidance to NHS organisations by June 2016 on how to provide free Wi-Fi.
“We are going to be developing some standards together with NHS CIOs and patients, which organisations can then take forward,” he said.
“There are a number of NHS organisations already offering free Wi-Fi to citizens, but this needs to be consistent.”
The plans come after Martha Lane-Fox told the NIB 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.
“This will be a powerful and effective step to improve people’s take up of digital health and technologies. It could open the doors to digital tools and technologies and it could transform health and social care services,” she said in her December report.
Her recommendation was endorsed by health secretary Jeremy Hunt who announced in 2015 that he would make funding available to improve Wi-Fi services across the NHS.
Denwood said at the NIB summit that GPs are already in line to get a refreshed broadband connection, which then means it can relatively easily deploy Wi-FI to patients. However, in secondary care, the picture “is a bit more complex”.
This is mainly because many NHS hospitals are locked into contracts with suppliers of entertainment systems, which often include pay-for Wi-Fi, meaning that each secondary care provider would need a bespoke system.
The target set by the NIB is to have free Wi-Fi in secondary care by March 2018, with GPs following the year after, with a deadline of March 2019.