Free WiFi

NHS Digital is working with clinical commissioning groups, hospital trusts and the WiFi industry to put in place free WiFi across the whole of the NHS estate. We’re providing funding, guidance and standards to support NHS organisations to implement WiFi services. David Corbett is the Programme Director – NHS WiFi.

We started at the beginning of the year by providing funding to 20 clinical commissioning groups to enable them to deliver across their areas. In total this covered approximately 1,000 GP surgeries and 5.6 million registered patients. In July we moved on to the wider rollout to all GP surgeries England. We’ve also now started to support delivery into hospitals. Free WiFi should be in place in all GP surgeries by the end of this year and in all acute, mental health and community hospital trusts by the end of next year.

This is the first of our new regular posts updating about what we’re working on, what we’ve learned and what we’re delivering. Most importantly we’ll be writing about how the introduction of free Wi-Fi is supporting patients, carers and those working within health and care, and helping to improve patient experience, satisfaction and outcomes.

WiFi in GP surgeries

At the start of July we made funding for WiFi available to all clinical commissioning groups. The funding will support them to deploy WiFi services before the end of the year to GP surgeries in their areas, and to meet their commitments under the GPIT Operating Model.

The model, which now places a requirement upon clinical commissioning groups to commission and deploy WiFi to GP surgeries, sets out how General Practice will achieve world class digital primary care systems that provide flexible, responsive and integrated services for patients, giving them greater control over their health and care.

We’ve engaged project leads from around 90% of clinical commissioning groups through a series of webinars so just have a few more to reach out to over the next couple of weeks. We’ve used the webinars to provide Wi-Fi project leads with background on the programme and to walk them through the process, including the support available from the programme team and the NHS England and NHS Digital regional teams, the new national standards, procurement options, and timeframes.

We’ll also be running more of these and regular engagements with clinical commissioning groups and clinical support units over the coming months so we can provide support and keep track of progress.

We’ve also been on the road seeing some great examples of how WiFi is supporting both patients and those working in the system. These have included:

  • NHS Bury CCG & NHS Bexley Clinical Commissioning Groups – two of our early adopters, where patients are already starting to use free WiFi to access and download health apps and to look up health and care information, whilst keeping in contact with friends and family and improving their overall experience.HHN-graphic
  • North East London CSU – who have led the delivery of WiFi into six of our early adopter areas across London. We’ve seen how WiFi is supporting local initiatives such as their popular Health Help Now app. The app lists common symptoms and offers suggestions for treatment, based on user location and the time of day.
  • NHS Liverpool Clinical Commissioning Groups – we’ve visited the clinical commissioning group in Liverpool to understand how WiFi will support their operational activities across the City and improve the care provided to patients.
  • University of Leeds – where medical students are able to work seamlessly and efficiently across different buildings and care settings through a combination of WiFi and roaming technologies.

WiFi in hospitals

Some of the biggest benefits supported by free WiFi will be for patients and staff in secondary care settings such as hospitals. We gained formal approval from our investment board on 7 July to start the first stage of delivery into hospitals.

Our first stage will involve working with approximately 16 ‘high priority’ trusts to deploy WiFi over the next few months. The priority trusts are based on those that currently have 20% or less of their estates offering free patient WiFi. Once WiFi has been deployed to these hospitals we then expect to start the wider rollout to the remaining Acute, Community and Mental Health hospital trusts through 2018.

Working with suppliers and bringing them together with NHS organisations

We’ve had a number of supplier engagement sessions this month including an industry webinar on 13 July with NHS Digital’s strategic partner Tech UK. The event was well attended with some really useful questions raised by suppliers. Links to the presentations are available on the NHS Digital Industry Briefings website.

WiFi image londonWe also worked hard to deliver two NHS WiFi Conferences which took place in Leeds and Leeds on the 18 and 20 of July. We had over 300 delegates across the two events equating to around 80% of CCGs being represented.

The events aimed to help project leads from clinical commissioning groups and clinical support units to learn more about the purpose, requirement and procurement of WiFi services, the patient and NHS staff benefits, the support available from NHS Digital, NHS England, and Crown Commercial Services, and an opportunity to engage with suppliers. Slides from the conferences are available on the NHS Digital website.

As part of preparing for the events it was also good to re-visit some of the original drivers for the programme from Baroness Martha Lane-Fox and the benefits organisations such as Imperial College London have already started to see where they’ve deployed WiFi.

It was also good to look at how we’ve been joining up with our sister programmes in paperless 2020 Domain A (self care and prevention) such as NHS UK, Apps and Wearables and Widening Digital Participation, along with other Paperless 2020 Programmes of work such as NHS 111, Digital Pharmacy, Provider Digitisation and Cyber Security.

Coming soon….

We still have a lot of work to do to support the remaining GP surgeries and hospitals to meet the commitment to provide free WiFi but I’m confident with the progress made to date, and the appetite amongst NHS organisations and the supplier community to deliver, free WiFi will be available across all the NHS pretty soon!

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