Free wi-fi among top NHS priorities, says former UK digital champion

The NHS must invest heavily in digital innovation, including improved staff training if it is to achieve its £22 billion efficiency target, according to former UK digital champion Baroness Martha Lane Fox.

She made the recommendations to the National Information Board as part of an NHS review.


Four main recommendations:

  • making sure those with the most health and social care needs, who are often the least likely to be online, are included first in any new digital tools being used across the NHS
  • free wi-fi in every NHS building
  • building the basic digital skills of the NHS workforce to ensure that everyone has the digital skills needed to support people’s health needs
  • at least 10% of registered patients in each GP practice should be using a digital service such as online appointment booking, repeat prescriptions and access to records by 2017

The intention is that free wi-fi will allow patients staying in hospital to self-monitor their conditions using apps, maintain contact with social networks that can support recovery and help them to stay in contact with family and friends.

It would also reduce the administrative burden on doctors, nurses and care staff, freeing up more time to be spent with patients, and enable safer working practices such as e-prescribing, known to reduce medication errors by 50%.

It is hoped that digital heath tools and information can help people to better manage their health and avoid unnecessary GP visits and hospital admissions.


Universality, equity and quality

Baroness Martha Lane 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.

“These principles are also the foundation of my recommendations and embedded within my new national organisation Doteveryone.

“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.”

Related reading