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We’re working with Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs), hospital trusts and the Wi-Fi industry to put in place free Wi-Fi across the whole of the NHS estate. We’re providing funding, guidance and standards to support NHS organisations to implement Wi-Fi services. David Corbett is the Programme Director – NHS Wi-Fi.

In my last blog, I talked about how the implementation of NHS Wi-Fi is progressing across primary care and secondary care settings. Early adopter CCGs had started to rollout free patient Wi-Fi to GP surgeries and the initial phase for 16 ‘high priority’ trusts to install Wi-Fi in hospitals was underway.

Since then we’ve been working closely with the CCGs taking part in the wider rollout and with the initial phase trusts to guide and support them through the process of delivery.

Wi-Fi in GP surgeries – wider rollout

Funding to support the delivery of free patient Wi-Fi across all GP surgeries in England was made available to CCGs in July. We’ve been working closely with each CCG to understand their plans and to walk them through the process of procuring and deploying Wi-Fi services, and to give them access to tools to support them.

We’ve held monthly webinars which have proved to be a useful forum to discuss progress as well as challenges, and they have allowed some of our early adopters to talk through how they overcame similar challenges.

The majority of CCGs have procured their Wi-Fi service directly from procurement frameworks. Others have opted to utilise their NHS England Lead Provider Framework (LPF) partners and a handful have procured through an aggregated buying service operated by Crown Commercial Services.

In September, we introduced an online tracking tool which enables all CCGs to provide updates on their progress to deliver Wi-Fi services across their estates and when they have completed, to report on usage. This data will help us to understand more about the benefits of Wi-Fi technology as an enabler to other digital tools and channels. We’ll also be using this information to let patients know when free patient Wi-Fi is available at their surgery by publishing details on NHS.UK pages alongside other practice information.

We’ve been looking to improve the user experience and functionality of the landing page which we’ve asked all GP practices to implement as part of their deliveries. The landing page provides a unique platform to reach millions of patients each year and to promote both national and local services, health information and campaigns, and we’re looking forward to improving the value that this can drive over the coming months.

Wi-Fi in hospitals – stage 1

We’ve made good progress in our delivery to hospitals with 16 acute, mental health and community trusts participating in the first stage of delivery.

We are engaging directly and collectively with the participating trusts through regular monthly webinars to support them in installing Wi-Fi across their sites.

Lessons learned from the first stage will inform the next stage of delivery to more hospital trusts which is expected to commence in January 2018 subject to business case approval.

We are working hard to plan two NHS Wi-Fi Secondary Care Conferences in Leeds and London in January which will be free of charge for NHS delegates. The conferences will help project leads to learn more about the benefits of introducing Wi-Fi, and the process to procure and implement Wi-Fi services. They’ll also provide an opportunity to understand more about the support available from NHS Digital and NHS England, and to engage with industry suppliers.

NHS Wi-Fi – adding value to the patient journey 

We’ve been engaging with local providers, patients and Wi-Fi suppliers to understand more about how Wi-Fi is helping patients to self-care and NHS staff to deliver better patient care.

Benefits in GP surgeries

We’ve heard how Wi-Fi is already making a real difference to patients including how it has improved engagement and communication at The Maltings Surgery in Herts Valley, for example by enabling patients to use their digital devices to complete forms and update their contact information electronically.

Another great example of Wi-Fi supporting patients is across South Norfolk. John Allison, GPIT Support Manager at NEL Commissioning Support Unit (CSU) which supported the delivery across South Norfolk pointed to, “Many of the sites have little or no mobile phone signal, so Wi-Fi is a great way for patients to remain connectedThe practices are also beginning to use the connectivity to promote services and health initiatives to patients while they wait. It’s helping to create a more flexible working environment too, with doctors taking their laptops and working from different rooms.”

NHS Bury, one of the programme’s early adopters has also started to see some real benefits for both patients and staff. One patient talked about the opportunities Wi-Fi presents to access digital health services.

“It’s great being able to access free Wi-Fi while waiting for my GP practice appointment. As a patient it enables me to book appointments and order repeat prescriptions online. I can download recommended health apps and look up health information more easily.  It’s a really positive move that improves my overall experience.”

In addition to supporting the first trusts to progress through the procurement and deployment process, we’ve also been sharing some of the benefits from trusts that have already implemented free patient Wi-Fi.  Carl St George was one of the first patients to take advantage of the free Wi-Fi at Colchester Hospital after having two knee operations. “Apart from my knee, I feel fine and being able to use my laptop and smart phone has helped reduce the boredom. I’ve been researching holidays on the internet and have also used my laptop to do some work.”

We are always keen to hear from those working within and outside health to understand how Wi-Fi is supporting healthcare delivery. For those looking to contribute, please contact us at nhswifi@nhs.net

Next steps  

I’m really pleased by the good progress being made across the CCG areas and by our first cohort of hospital trusts, and how the supplier community is responding to the challenge of supporting delivery across the country.

Our focus over the next period will be on both delivery and benefits. While some CCGs have started their deliveries a little later than others, we’re confident that the majority of GP practices will be offering free Wi-Fi access to patients before the end of the year and the remainder in early 2018. We’re also confident that all hospital trusts across England will be offering free patient Wi-Fi before the end of 2018.

I wrote in my last blog about the importance of understanding how the introduction of free Wi-Fi is supporting patients, carers and those working within health and care and sometimes it is easy to get too focussed on the day-day delivery.

However, as a programme we remain absolutely committed to understanding more about the benefits of Wi-Fi and how it is driving the uptake of other digital health services such as Patient Online, the NHS e-Referrals Service, Apps and Wearables, and NHS.UK.

I’ll be writing regular blogs to keep you up-to-date with NHS Wi-Fi news but if you’d like to know more, then get in touch with the team at nhswifi@nhs.net



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