All NHS hospitals and GP practices will soon be upgraded with “faster and more reliable” broadband in a bid to improve digital healthcare services as promised in the Long Term Plan, the health secretary has announced.
In a speech today at the Royal College of General Practitioners technology conference, Matt Hancock pledged that “all NHS organisations and community care services” will have the fastest fibre-optic broadband to help provide more reliable connections across the health service.
“Faster broadband connections can help us deliver these dramatic improvements”
The news comes in support of the NHS Long Term Plan, published earlier this year, which promised a “digital first” offer for patients, meaning more online video consultations.
The plan also pledged for “cloud-based” patient records to help clinicians access crucial information, including high resolution images and for more “virtual clinics” for hospital outpatients.
According to the Department of Health and Social Care, almost 40% of NHS organisations are using slow and unreliable internet supplied through copper lines, which restricts the ability to offer digital services, such as video consultations, to patients.
Therefore, upgrading the broadband is seen as an important part of delivering on the long-term plan, as it will provide fast and more reliable connections necessary to deliver video consultations and share high definition images at speed, the department noted.
Mr Hancock said: “Every day, our NHS staff do amazing work – but too often they are let down by outdated and unreliable technology.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,” he said.
“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,” said Mr Hancock.
“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,” he added.
Under existing plans from the Health and Social Care Network (HSCN) Marketplace, 70% of all NHS organisations will be connected to fibre optic through leased lines.
This is the same as “fibre to the cabinet”, which involves running fibre optic cables from the telephone exchange or distribution point to the street cabinets which then connect to a standard phone line to provide broadband.
The health secretary has now set an ambition for every hospital, GP practice and community care services to have fibre-to-the-premises (FFTP) connections which involve fibre optic cables from the telephone exchange or distribution point directly to the business.
This is the fastest and most reliable internet available, noted the government.