All NHS buildings to provide free wifi, Jeremy Hunt announces


Free wifi is to be provided in all NHS buildings in a bid to improve both medical treatment and patient experiences, Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt said.

Cash is being made available from a £1 billion technology fund to improve a patchy service - with some hospitals at present charging for access and others not providing it at all.

The move was a key recommendation of a Government-commissioned report by UK Digital Champion Martha Lane Fox on improving the use of online technology in the health service.

It will allow patients to stay in contact more easily with family and friends as well as keeping themselves entertained.

Officials believe it will also encourage the use of technologies that could massively cut paperwork and errors, and help alert doctors and nurses to medical problems.

Mobile clinical systems and tablets have already replaced paper charts in some hospitals, allowing potentially problematic changes in vital signs to be more quickly spotted and acted on, and for data to be shared around the building.

The Department of Health said greater use of e-prescribing could reduce medication errors by 50%.

Patients could also wear monitors to alert medical staff to issues, helping for example the more than a fifth of diabetics said to have experienced a "largely avoidable" hypoglycemic episode while in hospital.

Mr Hunt said: "Everyone using the NHS expects it to be a world leader in digital healthcare and free wifi is an essential part of making that a reality.

"It will give patients and staff the ability to access the services they need as well as freeing up clinical time and reducing overall costs."

The Department of Health was unable to say what proportion of NHS facilities already provide free wifi.

No specific deadline has been set for it to be available across the board but the Government expects the NHS to go "digital and paperless" by 2020.