Will you have WiFi in your Regional Health Service? Mr Hunt speaks for NHS England only. There may not be enough money for this service in Wales, although Mr Drakeford said on 14th December that Wales would fund similarly (MISCO – New digital NHS plan will put Welsh patients in control of their own health). As a potential victim and “user” I welcome the chance to get up-to-date information on my diagnosis and treatment. It will allow me to compare recommendations from my doctors with those “on line”. It will also allow me to get access to information about choices not available to me, as I live in Wales (where people are poorer), but available to an English resident…. Civil unrest may follow as patients get discontented about life expectancy differences.. Perhaps, if all Regions allow funding, this will be another “universal” area to add to what remains that is “National” in the UK Health Services. Information and knowledge are power in The Information Age, but they can also lead to problems when a system is not universal, but we all pay into the same tax/fiscal system.
Free Wi-Fi is to be provided in all NHS buildings in a bid to improve medical treatment and patient experience, said Jeremy Hunt, the health secretary.
Cash is being made available from a £1bn technology fund to improve a patchy service – with some hospitals at present charging for access and others not providing Wi-Fi at all.
The move was recommended in a report commissioned by the government and Martha Lane Fox, when she was the UK’s digital champion, 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 greatly cut paperwork and errors, and help alert doctors and nurses to medical problems.
Mobile clinical systems and tablets have 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.
A spokesman for 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, which could help the more than one-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 Wi-Fi 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 Wi-Fi. No deadline has been set for it to be available throughout the NHS but the government expects it to be “digital and paperless” by 2020.