UK NHS hospitals and GP practices promised full fibre connection

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The UK’s health secretary, Matt Hancock has committed to ensuring that all NHS organisations can be connected to full fibre broadband in order to improve the range and quality of digital healthcare services offered to patients.

The plan is that every UK hospital, GP practice and community care service will ultimately have full fibre connectivity, while currently around 40 per cent of NHS organisations use slow and unreliable internet supplied through copper lines.

This announcement supports the ambitions highlighted in the government’s NHS Long Term Plan to expand and improve online access to NHS services. The existing target is for 70 per cent of NHS organisations to be able to access full-fibre broadband via leased lines by August 2020. The intention now is to provide all bodies with access to full-fibre as soon as possible.

Under the plan, patients will have the right to choose a ‘digital first’ approach to primary healthcare – so patient consultations would in future be offered online and via video consultation, as well as face to face. There could also be more ‘virtual’ hospital outpatient clinics and cloud-based patient records. Upgrading broadband will provide the kinds of connections necessary for these services.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock said: ‘Every day, our NHS staff do amazing work – but too often they are let down by outdated and unreliable technology.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. 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.’

This commitment from UK government would also be in line with the European Commission’s strategy for a gigabit society. Launched in 2016, the strategy called for gigabit connectivity for ‘all main socioeconomic drivers,’ including anything that touches the state, such as schools, hospitals, law enforcement and local government services.

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