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NHS could deploy free wi-fi in every GP practice

Every GP practice could receive free wi-fi as NHS England looks at rollout of wireless internet across ‘entire estate’, sparking calls from GPs to stop prioritising ‘bells and whistles’ over essential patient care services.

In a round up of the NHS’s progress towards the Government mandated objective to be ‘paperless’ by 2018, it announced wireless internet could save the health service billions by reducing the time staff spend tied to terminals for administrative tasks.

But GP leaders said it was unclear ‘who the initiative was for’ and beyond ‘giving patients something to do in the waiting room’ the new service did not have obvious benefits for primary care.

The announcements by the National Information Board today also set out time lines for it’s other major IT initiatives, noting that the first NHS-approved health apps – which could even be prescribed by GPs – may be available by the end of the year.

It also highlighted that learning difficulties and dementia will be added to the information available through patients’ Summary Care Record by March 2016, and committed to offering GP appointments online via video through NHS Choices.

A spokesperson for NHS England told Pulse: ‘The NHS is announcing today our intention to investigate the feasibility of providing free WiFi in every NHS building, including every GP practice.’

But Dr Grant Ingrams, deputy chair of the GPC’s IT subcommittee, told Pulse: ‘In the blue book, going back to 2003-04 it says “all IT is funded by the NHS”. So from my point of view, if they want a new IT toy in practices, that’s fine they pay for it. The question is, who is this for?’

He added: ‘Why can’t they sort out the stuff that needs sorting out first? To treat patients safely I need every GP to have decent access to mobile technology when visiting patients at home, or in the nursing home. Please sort that out first, or GP2GP.’

‘This is another bell and whistle, and yeah that’s great, but sort out the basics first. Sort out the bits which are actually affecting our ability to provide safe care.’

NHS England national director for patients and information, Tim Kelsey, said: ‘As well as giving patients more choice and control, better use of technology can save money.  Letting people rebook online will help tackle the estimated £160 million that missed appointments cost the NHS each year.’


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