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GP practices to get fibre-optic internet to support long-term plan

All GP practices will soon have fibre-optic broadband, Matt Hancock has announced today.

At a speech at the RCGP technology conference, Mr Hancock has announced plans to upgrade every GP practice, hospital and community care service to the fibre-optic services as part of the long-term plan to improve the range of digital healthcare services. 

Mr Hancock said: ‘Every day, our NHS staff do amazing work – but too often they are let down by outdated and unreliable technology. It’s simply unbelievable that a third of NHS organisations are using internet that can sometimes be little better than dial-up.’

The implementation of upgrading every GP practice will be funded through NHS Digital’s Health and Social Care Network (HSCN) Marketplace and various programmes by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) are currently running.

Such projects include the ‘local full fibre networks’ programme and the ‘rural gigabit connectivity’ programme, which will connect all GP surgeries, including those in rural areas.

This commitment will allow doctors to offer more digital services, such as video consultations to patients.

Last October, the health secretary mentioned at the Conservative Party Conference that the Government was in talks with BT to provide practices with ‘full fibre’ broadband.

Full fibre-optic broadband replaces traditional copper wires with fibre-optic cables, that promises a faster, more reliable connection.

Mr Hancock added: ‘To give people control over how they access NHS services, I want to unlock the full potential of technology – this is the future for our 21st century healthcare system and a central part of our NHS Long Term Plan.

‘Faster broadband connections can help us deliver these dramatic improvements – we need clinicians and other healthcare professionals to feel confident they can access fast, reliable broadband so they can provide patients with the best possible care.’

Earlier this year, Mr Hancock announced plans to overhaul GP IT systems. However, a recent study found that only 0.1% of patients prefer video consultations. 

The RCGP recently called for a more ‘robust’ NHS IT system, stressing that the Government should focus on improving the ‘basics’ first.