Health secretary promises NHS fibre broadband

Written by Peter Walker
01/05/19

Health secretary Matt Hancock has announced plans to upgrade every hospital, GP practice and community care service to full fibre broadband connectivity.

Almost 40 per cent of NHS organisations are using slow and unreliable internet supplied through copper lines, which restricts the ability to offer digital services to patients, according to the government.

The announcement supports ambitions in the NHS Long Term Plan to expand and improve online access to NHS services.

Under the plan every patient will get the right to choose a ‘digital first’ approach to primary healthcare, meaning that more of the 307 million patient consultations with GPs each year would in future be offered online, through video consultation, as well as face to face.

Hospital outpatient clinics will also be redesigned with more ‘virtual clinics’ involving video consultations with consultants and nurses, supplemented by face-to-face appointments where necessary.

Cloud-based patient records will help clinicians access crucial information, including high-resolution images, anywhere in the country, improving patient safety and speeding up appointments, and broadband will be upgraded to provide the fast, reliable connections necessary for video consultations and sharing high-definition images at speed.

Hancock said: “Every day, our NHS staff do amazing work - but too often they are let down by outdated and unreliable technology - it’s simply unbelievable that a third of NHS organisations are using internet that can sometimes be little better than dial-up.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,” he added.

Separately, the government released its 2018 bioscience and health technology sector statistics, showing that the UK life sciences industry employs 248,400 people in 5,8701 businesses and generates a turnover of £73.8 billion.

The core MedTech sector is the largest by employment - 97,600 or 39 per cent of the industry - and core biopharma is the largest by turnover - £33.4 billion or 45 per cent of the industry.

The top three core segments in the industry include digital health - the largest segment by employment in core MedTech with 11,100 employees - and in vitro diagnostics - 9,000 employees.

The figures revealed that 80 per cent of the businesses in the industry are small to medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), employing 23 per cent of the industry total and generating 10 per cent of the turnover.

Between 2009 and 2018, the industry increased employment by 17,400 - an increase of eight per cent at a compound annual growth rate of 0.8 per cent. Total industry turnover increased by £2 billion between 2009 to 2018, driven by the service and supply sectors (£5.9 billion) offsetting decreases in core biopharma (£3.3 billion) and MedTech (£700 million).