How free NHS WiFi is already benefiting our GP practice

By Dr Kirsty Gillgrass, 28 July 2018

GP Dr Kirsty Gillgrass sitting in her chair by her desk in her surgery room 

Last week, we became one of the latest GP practices to go live with free NHS WiFi, as the national NHS WiFi programme confirmed that it has now rolled out to three quarters of GP practices in England.

I’m told that the remaining 25 per cent are expected to follow soon, giving more than 58 million patients, across 7686 GP practices, access to free NHS WiFi, enabling them to link in with local health clinics and services and paving the way for future developments in digital patient care.

Crystal Peaks Medical Centre sits in a busy retail park. The practice is a training practice with five GP partners and a large multi-disciplinary primary care team. There are approximately seven thousand patients registered with us and, due to the location of the practice, they come from a wide range of socioeconomic backgrounds.

We’re already seeing benefits both for patients and staff from implementing NHS WiFi. For patients, there is a separate WiFi service, for use free of charge in their GP’s waiting room, and accessible via a smart phone or tablet. They can use the service to access and download health apps, browse the internet and look up health and care information.

For clinicians and practice staff, it provides us with an efficient, reliable and secure platform that enables us to offer and utilise the latest digital health and care services. Resident staff, GPs and visiting clinicians all have access to secure WiFi allowing us to access information anywhere in the surgery.

We went live with WiFi on 10 July and it is already being used in consultations, waiting areas and for a range of health services. We were paying for a mobile WiFi connection prior to this and so we were very keen to get connected with NHS WiFi.

It is already enabling better mobile working; I have monthly liaison meetings with safeguarding children staff who work remotely, often laptops with dongles are not reliable. With WiFi, information can be shared safely and the meetings are much more efficient, which results in better care for our most vulnerable patients and more time for staff to spend on frontline care.

The benefits for doctors during consultation include, using mobile technology as part of care delivery and being able access clinical tools, risk calculators and electronic versions of BNF, NICE guidelines, faster than on a desktop computer.

In the waiting room, access to WiFi has been used in different ways including reducing anxiety for patients who might have to wait longer for appointments. I have also used YouTube to show videos to anxious children during their appointment.

Having WiFi will open up opportunities for the practice that will benefit patients. We, along with other practices in our neighbourhood, are hoping to buy some mobile devices for staff with digital inclusion funding so we can encourage patients to sign up to GP online services, book appts online, order prescriptions, view patient electronic record and access other digital health services.

The practice has moved to a ‘neighbourhood model’ and intends to conduct remote tutorials with GP registrars in other practices. We will be able to use a room that isn’t the consulting room and connect over WiFi using software such as Adobe Connect. As a GP trainer, having WiFi also means that GP registrars and trainers can access portfolios and exam preparation resources quickly on our own technology without using our mobile data.

These are just some of the benefits of NHS WiFI in addition to the fact that it is free, which means the money we were spending ourselves can be redirected into other essential services. Over time, we hope to see more benefits from the move towards a more digital patient care services and WiFi will play a key role in that transition.

Dr Kirsty Gillgrass is a GP at Crystal Peaks Medical Centre in Sheffield.

  • GP Partner/GP Trainer, Crystal Peaks Medical Centre, Sheffield
  • Senior Clinical Teacher, Academic Unit of Primary Care, University of Sheffield
  • Sheffield CCG Governing Body Member (GP representative Hallam and South Locality)