NHS urged to offer free Wi-Fi

Fox, a former internet entrepreneur and government advisor, was commissioned by Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt to examine how there could be more digital inclusion across the NHS.

Currently there is wide variation in internet access at different surgeries and NHS buildings, and one of Fox’s key recommendations was that every building should offer patients access to free Wi-Fi. She argued that this will allow patients to better self monitor their condition and remain in contact with family and friends, while also reducing the administrative burden on NHS staff.

Other recommendations included making sure that those with the most health and social care needs are included first in any new digital tools being used across the NHS, and better training in basic digital skills across the NHS workforce.

Fox also suggested that GP practices should be encouraging more patients to go online to book appointments, order repeat prescriptions and access records, setting an aim of at least 10 per cent of registered patients at each practice using these services by 2017.

Fox said: “One of the founding principles of the NHS was to ensure that everyone - irrespective of means, age, sex, or occupation - should have equal opportunity to benefit from the best and most up to date medical and allied services available.

“In the network age, universality, equity and quality must be at the very centre of how we build, adopt and scale new technologies in health. No-one must be left behind.”

Hunt said: “Creating an NHS which is digitally fit for purpose in the 21st century is a key priority for this government. New investment of £1 billion in health technology announced in the autumn statement will help us to achieve this - making sure that patients and staff can access the services they need, helping to free up time and reduce costs.”

Tim Kelsey, National Information Board Chair and NHS England National Director of Patients and Information, said: “Digital health tools can dramatically improve people’s lives and well-being. These bold challenges to the system to ensure that every person in the UK benefits are very welcome, and will galvanise work already underway to put power in the hands of patients, enabling them to take control of their care and improve their health.”

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