UK

Free wi-fi to be provided in all NHS buildings - Jeremy Hunt

Hospital corridor Image copyright Thinkstock

Free wi-fi is to be provided in all NHS buildings in England in a bid to improve services and reduce costs, Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt said.

It will mean patients can use their smart phones or other devices to go online to keep in touch with friends and family or watch on-demand TV.

At present some hospitals charge for wi-fi and others have no access at all.

The government has set no deadline for the plans but expects the NHS to be "digital and paperless" by 2020.

The move is a recommendation from a government-commissioned report on improving the use of online technology in the health service.

Money for the service is being provided from a £1bn technology fund.

'Leader in digital healthcare'

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."

In some hospitals paper charts have already been replaced by mobile clinical systems and tablets, allowing for data to be shared around the building.

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

It also believes the plans will encourage the use of technologies that could help alert doctors and nurses to medical problems and reduce paperwork and errors.

Patients could also wear monitors to alert medical staff to issues, such as diabetics who have experienced "largely avoidable" hypoglycemic episodes while in hospital.

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

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