The entire NHS estate will soon be able to access free internet as part of NHS Digital’s Wifi Programme.
It aims to get all GP practices set up by the end of 2017, with hospitals and secondary care to follow in 2018. The project’s aim is to support health and care professionals to have access to services, tools and technologies to deliver better care – according to a NHS Digital spokeswoman.
The first phase (of the three-step programme) commenced earlier this year with NHS wifi installed in 991 GP practices across England. It allows patients to access the internet free of charge in their GP’s waiting room, via their smart phone or tablet. “NHS Digital is working to make sure that everyone can access free wifi in NHS sites in England, as set out in the NHS England General Practice Forward View”, an NHS Digital spokeswoman said.
“NHS wifi will provide a secure, stable, and reliable wifi capability, consistent across all NHS settings. It will allow patients and the public to download health apps, browse the internet and access health and care information.” She said NHS Wifi is a response to patient feedback asking for free wifi services to be introduced in NHS locations.
In 2015, the health secretary, Jeremy Hunt announced that free wifi will be available across all NHS buildings in England as part of the government’s commitment to a paperless health service by 2020.
In April 2016, the National Information Board started to lay out the timetable for delivering on Hunt’s promise. At the board meeting, Tom Denwood, the national provider support and integration director at NHS Digital, said that by March 2018, there would be a firm target in place to meet the commitment, with GPs having free wifi in place by March 2019.
The next stage of the programme is currently underway with a wider roll-out across primary care.
Clinical commissioning groups (CCGs) will get funding to implement the NHS Wifi in general practices based on a calculation of GP surgery size. “CCGs can procure wifi services on behalf of GP practices in their areas through established frameworks including the Crown Commercial Services Framework”, the spokeswoman said. The 20 CCGs who hope to implement wifi across GP practices within their areas, by the end of March 2017 can be found here. The spokeswoman said it will be available in primary locations more quickly than secondary care as the estate requirements are less complicated than in hospitals.
The internet access will be granted through an NHS.UK landing page which will host national healthcare information alongside locally generated content from the general practice or CCG, such as information about local clinics and health services.