Free Wifi for Hospital Patients – Progress Report

Well, this week I had a bit of good news. On Monday (11th July) I was at the RSA in London to present my proposal for Free Wifi for Hospital patients at the DotGovLabs Dragons’ Den.  The idea is outlined here, if you haven’t seen it before, and you can even join the Facebook Group. In brief, based on family experiences, I have been campaigning for some time to get free wifi for hospital patients, as I believe it would be of massive therapeutic benefit to reduce patients’ isolation by enabling them to connect to the outside world in this way.

I’ve been very grateful for the support of a lot of people in the campaign, including the wonderful Ellie Stoneley, who had her own frustrating experience in hospital in the not too distant past, and who was kind enough to record this video of support for the campaign.

Shortly before I went to London for the pitch, I visited Pinderfields Hospital in Wakefield, to talk to Neal Lewis, who has been responsible for installing and maintaining a free patient wifi network in that hospital and the other two hospitals run by the Mid-Yorkshire NHS Trust.  Neal was able to give me some valuable information on the running of the network, and to dispel some myths about potential problems. Here he is, talking to me in the canteen at Pinderfields.

And so, the good news was that I won second prize in the DotGovLabs challenge, which will bring £2,000 to help progress the idea.

So, what next? Well, the campaign goes on. In the immediate future, I will be looking to achieve 4 objectives:

  1. To conduct a survey of hospitals already providing wifi (free and otherwise), and collecting as much feedback as possible on how it is working;
  2. To work with Neal Lewis and colleagues in Wakefield to collect quantitative and qualitative information on the use of the free wifi in the Mid-Yorkshire hospitals;
  3. To engage connectivity suppliers as potential partners; and
  4. To find a pilot hospital prepared to introduce free wifi for the time.

There is already potential interest from a major telecomms company, so I am hopeful that there is momentum building behind this, and I think the support of the DotGovLabs “Dragons” is both a symbol of this and will provide a major boost in itself.

I’ll keep you informed of progress. If there is anything you can do to help, then please get in touch.

26 thoughts on “Free Wifi for Hospital Patients – Progress Report

  1. Have you thought about how this might work in psychiatric hospitals? I spent a month in a locked acute ward. There was a computer. It had NetNanny installed to stop us going to dangerous internet sites. NetNanny did more than that. It prevented people from accessing their online email accounts. That really matters to people who are in hospital for any length of time.

    NHS staff are obsessed with stoping people with mental health problems from visiting sites which might disturb us. Such sites do exist but I reckon this is only likely to be a risk in wards with lax nursing care. If nurses take an interest in their patients then they should be able to work out a balance between privacy and safety.

    NHS staff are also concerned about breaches of patient confidentiality. Hospitals all have policies on use of camera phones and the like.

    NHS staff do not think about the positive aspects of internet access. They just see risk. To them boredom does not matter but it does matter if you happen to be a patient. The internet can be fun? Why should people miss out on all this just because they are in hospital?

    If you are talking to government departments you might like to point out that government web sites may well be inaccessible to people in hospital. I certainly found that to be the case when I was in Fulbourn Hospital near Cambridge.

    Shortly after this admission I went to a conference on the internet-enabled patient. I quite suprised a Department of Health guy when I told him that NetNanny stopped me from visiting NHS Direct and NHS Choices. I think it is daft that hospital patients do not have ready access to such sites.

    Today more than ever people with mental health problems need access to good online information. Advice services for our group are facing swinging cuts. Web sites are not a full substitute but they are better than nothing.

    I had my mother bring in my laptop with a dongle but many people would be unable to afford that kind of kit and the accompanying online charges.

    Good luck.

  2. Hi, I found this article when searching for pinderfields free wifi. I have to say I fully support this idea and even think it should go further and be extended to council sports facilities. However as great as the idea is the execution must be complete. Here I sit in pinderfields hospital confined to bed with wifi enabled laptop and a strong signal from myh-guest network. Nice login screen except the 8 staff I have asked so far are completely unaware that there is a network. And the login details ( which the login page says are on the intranet ) are not.
    Its a real pity when a great effort to put a guest network in place falls at the last hurdle of actually letting people on!

    Steve ( on a phone with 1 bar of gprs occationally )

  3. Its a joke I’m in hospital at the moment and have asked several staff members who didn’t know they had a guest site let alone how to gain access via the intranet. I’m still none the wiser and reliant on 3G!!!

  4. Just found this whilst looking to see whether RSCH had any wifi capability. They don’t. It’s not even that people would want it for free. I would be quite happy to pay for access, just so my stepdad could watch the Ryder Cup this weekend coz he’s miserable at being kept in for another week. They talk about “Patient 1st”, but forget that it’s 2012 and what patients want is to not be completely isolated from everything they enjoy! Sport being one of the things that lots of people enjoy and due to the spread of viewing rights, it’s not always going to be on terrestrial TV. Good luck in fixing this 🙂

  5. I also unable to get the username & password, and the staff who are medical dont know it. Could this article please link to where we might find it?
    I feel that this inspired initiative actually delivers what it is trying to do!

  6. Just been to pinders as was told by a nurse that they are no longer aloud to give passwords out.
    What is the point of a guest WiFi if nobody can use it

  7. My husband is in pinderfields and yesterday afternoon I asked a nurse about the wifi. Result !!! Last night he was so happy to no longer be incommunicado. As the nurse said it’s not ultra-fast but fine for e-mail and browsing.

    • Hi Gillian

      Thank you for this, it’s great to hear from someone who has been helped by wifi in hospitals. Unfortunately, hospitals which have wifi are still in the minority, although the numbers are growing. It would be fantastic to hear from your husband how the wifi has directly benefited him

    • Does your husband remember the password? I am currently sat on one of the wards and had no success trying to find someone who knows the codes – one step away from access, very frustrating.

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  9. I’ve not had a lot to report in terms of progress of the Campaign recently. Beyond the fact that an increasing number of hospitals now do have wifi, albeit I believe that it is still a minority.

    However, yesterday (5/12/13) I met three members of Rotary Clubs at Media City Social Media Surgery in Salford. They suggested that the national Rotary Clubs network, and my local Rotary Club, might be interested in backing the Campaign.

    If anyone has any Rotary contacts, could you please give me a shout

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  11. As most who have commented here, I found this page while looking for ‘free patient wifi @ Salisbury District Hospital’ and I’m over the moon that someone is running a campaighn as I was about to start one myself.
    As a cancer patient I’m in and out of hospital and some of these visits are unscheduled and sometimes two or three weeks long. It doesn’t sound very much I know, but when you are frightened, disorientated and too far away from home for your family and friends to visit regularly the shock of suddenly being out of touch with everyone can be devastating!
    I’m a 53 year old man and almost ashamed to admit that my lack of contact in the first few days reduced me to tears, anger and frustration and when you are ill, full of meds and in pain, you blame other people and it takes a lot for family and friends to forgive your barbed remarks about the lack of visits when in fact they have moved heaven and earth (and often spent money they can ill afford) to come and see you as often as they can.
    When eventually a kind sole donated a borrowed laptop and dongle it became an absolute lifeline as not only did it allow me to send and receive emails, but it helped me to keep up with events at home and with friends through social media and quite literally within hours I began to feel better, so much so that several of my key health workers remarked upon the change in me so it is ever so important!
    Yes, I was aware that SDH have a contract with Hospedia who provide bedside TV and internet access and I’m quite happy to go on record to state that their internet access is a complete joke and way way too expensive. To the likes of me, on long term sick, totally unaffordable! and unusable to all bar those with saintly qualities. having been conned into believing that the initial £10.00 would buy me a day’s internet, it wasn’t until a kind nurse rang the customer support number, which you have to do to sign up and actually took over an hour to be picked up, I was informed that for internet access I’d have to pay an extra £5.00 Well by this time I was so desperate for outside contact that I used my “shop money” and paid. Never regretted anything more in my life. I don’t do much TV, especially the rubbish they had on offer and with the internet access being almost impossible to get a connection and when I did, it was so slow it was a bad joke! Then when you finally do get some action the screens are totally the wrong soze and it’s always the button you need to press that’s unreachable right?
    I know I sound like a right old whinging ninny but trust me, it is so very upsetting and frustrating. If I’d have had the strength that damned Hospedia junk would have been ripped off the wall and exited through the nearest open window :/
    I’m due back in soon for massive reconstructive surgery that will leave me back in SDH unable to speak for several weeks if all goes well, possibly months if it doesn’t. Yes, this time I have made sure that I have a laptop, tablet and two of those mobile phone widgets that connect them to the mobile phone networks but they have cost family and friends a small fortune to put together and there’s no guarantee that there’s even a mobile signal at wherever my bed will turn out to be.
    There are many many people out there who’s families and friends simply cannot afford to keep visiting (don’t get me started on hospital parking fees 😦 ) Neither can they afford to do what mine did and set the patient up with an independent connection. I hear so many stories about NHS ward staff’s negative attitude towards internet access for patients … what are they afraid of?
    Thank you again for staring this, all campaigns take a slump half way down the road but don’t take a lot of re-energizing. Look at our campaign for getting them to let us pay our car tax by standing order, for three years they told us categorically “NO it can’t be done” yet low and behold, come October we’ll be able to pay our road tax by affordable installments because we didn’t go away, yet that campaign slumped a year in but we revitalized it and kept on going until we got what we wanted 🙂
    If there’s anything I can do to help, feel free to contact me, I have a campaign website and several uk based peoples rights FB pages, only too happy to oblige! 🙂
    Thanks again, lets hope we soon see free and useable WiFi in all our hospitals!

    • Good luck with your treatment, hope it all goes well, keep us posted on this post!!! I agree totally with your post, and several doctors I have spoken to say that contact with the world out there is a better medicine than they can prescribe with drugs. We have free wifi in our hospital but nobody can get on it. There is still much more work to be done but the tide is turning. Keep the faith.

  12. Who collects old laptops to send to Africa? They should be sent to our hospitals. You could create a great little job for someone keeping the laptops running, helping patients get connected, topping up dongles, sorting out access points to beds off the network etc. I am sure patients desperate for contact with friends, family and the outside world would be happy to pay a short term rental for in-patient stays. Any hospital willing to run a pilot?

  13. Hi my husband is in huddersfield royal infirmary which has a guest wifi which asks for a password and username . When asked the staff said the don’t offer that service, he has no tv,no radio and he is in a room all by his self. So why is it that its offered. I feel so sorry for him only having four walls to look at😔

    • Hi Angela.

      I am sorry to hear of your husband’s predicament. I have experienced the exact same issue in Huddersfield Royal Infirmary. I have tried asking the Trust to deal with it but have got no reply. I will try again

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