Free Hospital Wifi – Nearly There!

Those who know me will be aware that I have been campaigning for free patient access to wifi in NHS hospitals for more than 10 years. For most of that time I felt like a voice in the wilderness. In recent years the support has gathered, and, in the last year at least, it has felt like there was a momentum behind the idea.

And now…. the moment has not yet arrived, but the door is open. Today, Martha Lane Fox published her “Digital Recommendations for the NHS“. Among the recommendations are that all health staff should have digital skills, AND, that there should be free wifi for staff and patients across the NHS estate.

I know from experience that there is a long distance between recommendation and implementation, particularly in an NHS which is actually made up of a plethora of autonomous units. But the recommendation is there, and it has a budget behind it.

So, maybe the Campaign has won. But still join it any way here to make sure the momentum is maintained.

We are nearly there!

 

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.